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Private: Letter Written During a January Northeaster: a poem by Anne Sexton


Monday

Dearest,
It is snowing, grotesquely snowing
upon the small faces of the dead.
Those dear loudmouths, gone for over a year,
buried side by side
like little wrens.
But why should I complain?
The dead turn over casually,
thinking:
            Good! No visitors today.
My window, which is not a grave,
is dark with my fierce concentration
and too much snowing
and too much silence.
The snow has quietness in it; no songs,
no smells, no shouts nor traffic.
When I speak
my own voice shocks me.

 

Tuesday

I have invented a lie,
there is no other day but Monday.
It seems reasonable to pretend
that I could change the day
like a pair of socks.
To tell the truth
days are all the same size
and words aren’t much company.
If I were sick, I’d be a child,
tucked in under the woolens, sipping my broth.
As it is,
the days are not worth grabbing
or lying about.

 

Monday

It would be pleasant to be drunk:
faithless to my own tongue and hands,
giving up the boundaries
for the heroic gin.
Dead drunk
is the term I think of,
insensible,
neither cool nor warm,
without a head or a foot.
To be drunk is to be intimate with a fool.
I will try it shortly.

 

Monday

Just yesterday,
twenty eight men aboard a damaged radar tower
foundered down seventy miles off the coast.
Immediately their hearts slammed shut.
The storm would not cough them up.
Today they are whispering over Sonar.
Small voice,
what do you say?
Aside from the going down, the awful wrench,
The pulleys and hooks and the black tongue . . .
What are your headquarters?
Are they kind?

 

Monday

It must be Friday by now.
I admit I have been lying.
Days don’t freeze
And to say that the snow has quietness in it
is to ignore the possibilities of the word.
Only the tree has quietness in it;
quiet as a pair of antlers
waiting on the cabin wall,
quiet as the crucifix,
pounded out years ago like a handmade shoe.
Someone once
told an elephant to stand still.
That’s why trees remain quiet all winter.
They’re not going anywhere.

 

Monday

Dearest,
where are your letters?
The mailman is an impostor.
He is actually my grandfather.
He floats far off in the storm
with his nicotine mustache and a bagful of nickels.
His legs stumble through
baskets of eyelashes.
Like all the dead
he picks up his disguise,
shakes it off and slowly pulls down the shade,
fading out like an old movie.
Now he is gone
as you are gone.
But he belongs to me like lost baggage.

 

—Anne Sexton

(from The Hudson Review, Vol. XV, Number 2, Summer 1962)