I left my Dickinson volume in the metro yesterday. I hadn’t even finished reading it. I came home and searched everywhere.
I read this gorgeous Anne Sexton poem on suicide just now. It is technically brilliant. Also, so persistent that it is almost urgent.
“Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.
Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.
But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.
Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.
In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.
I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.
Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.
To thrust all that life under your tongue!—
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,
and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.
Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,
leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love whatever it was, an infection.”
But, my favourite suicide poem is a Dickinson. Not a Plath. Here it is:-
“'Tis not that Dying hurts us so—
'Tis Living—hurts us more—
But Dying—is a different way—
A Kind behind the Door—
The Southern Custom—of the Bird—
That ere the Frosts are due—
Accepts a better Latitude—
We—are the Birds—that stay.”
Dickinson died a natural death. Plath and Sexton committed suicide.
I was right. That Tony Harrison collection is horrible.