The Truth the Dead Know


For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959 / and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church, / refusing the stiff procession to the grave, / letting the dead ride alone in the hearse. / It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate / myself where the sun gutters from the sky, / where the sea swings in like an iron gate / and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones / from the whitehearted water and when we touch / we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone. / Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes / in the stone boats. They are more like stone / than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse / to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

Anne Sexton


Red Riding Hood

Long ago
there was a strange deception:
a wolf dressed in frills,
a kind of transvestite.
But I get ahead of my story.

Those two remembering
nothing naked and brutal
from that little death,
that little birth,
from their going down
and their lifting up.

Anne Sexton, „Red Riding Hood“

Und wunderbar weitergedacht: Die Mützenfalterin über das Schlüpfen aus der Haut eines Wolfes…


We are fishermen in a flat scene.
All day long we are in love with water.
The fish are naked.
The fish are always awake.
They are the color of old spoons
and caramels.
The sun reaches down
but the floor is not in sight.
Only the rocks are white and green.
Who knows what goes on in the halls below?

It’s queer to meet the loon falling in
across the top of the yellow lake
like a checkered hunchback
dragging his big feet.
Only his head and neck can breathe.
He yodels.
He goes under yodeling
like the first mate
who sways all night in his hammock, calling
I have seen, I have seen.

Water is worse than woman.
It calls to a man to empty him.
Under us
twelve princesses dance all night,
exhausting their lovers, then giving them up.
I have known water.
I have sung all night
for the last cargo of boys.
I have sung all night
for the mouths that float back later,
one by one,
holding a lady’s worn out shoe.

Anne Sexton

Zum Todestag von Anne Sexton ein Gedicht der Mützenfalterin, hier:

„Sehr geehrte Frau Sexton,…“

Snow White

Marlene Dumas,
Marlene Dumas, „Snow White and the Broken Arm“ (1988)

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Anne Sexton, „Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs“

The stars are pears

Illustration von Barbara Swan aus "Transformations" von Anne Sexton
Illustration von Barbara Swan aus „Transformations“ von Anne Sexton

If I could blame it all on the weather,
the snow like the cadaver’s table,
the trees turned into knitting needles,
the ground as hard as a frozen haddock,
the pond wearing its mustache of frost.

If I could blame conditions on that,
if I could blame the hearts of strangers
striding muffled down the street,
or blame the dogs, every color,
sniffing each other
and pissing on the doorstep.

If I could blame the bosses
and the presidents for
their unpardonable songs.

If I could blame it on all
the mothers and fathers of the world,
they of the lessons, the pellets of power,
they of the love surrounding you like batter.

Blame it on God perhaps?
He of the first opening
that pushed us all into our first mistakes?
No, I’ll blame it on Man
For Man is God
and man is eating the earth up
like a candy bar
and not one of them can be left alone with the ocean
for it is known he will gulp it all down.

The stars (possibly) are safe.

At least for the moment.

The stars are pears
that no one can reach,
even for a wedding.

Perhaps for a death.

Anne Sexton


Some women marry houses.
It’s another kind of skin; it has a heart,
a mouth, a liver and bowel movements.
The walls are permanent and pink.
See how she sits on her knees all day,
faithfully washing herself down.
Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah
into their fleshy mothers.
A woman is her mother.
That’s the main thing.

Anne Sexton

Live to the HILT!

Wed — 2:45 P.M.

Dear Linda,

I am in the middle of a flight to St. Louis to give a reading. I was reading a New Yorker story that made me think of my mother and all alone in the seat I whispered to her „I know, Mother, I know.“ (Found a pen!) And I thought of you — someday flying somewhere all alone and me dead perhaps and you wishing to speak to me.

And I want to speak back. (Linda, maybe it won’t be flying, maybe it will be at your own kitchen table drinking tea some afternoon when you are 40. Anytime.) — I want to say back.

1. I love you.

2. You never let me down

3. I know. I was there once. I too, was 40 and with a dead mother who I needed still.

This is my message to the 40-year-old Linda. No matter what happens you were always my bobolink, my special Linda Gray. Life is not easy. It is awfully lonely. I know that. Now you too know it — wherever you are, Linda, talking to me. But I’ve had a good life — I wrote unhappy — but I lived to the hilt. You too, Linda — Live to the HILT! To the top. I love you, 40-year old Linda, and I love what you do, what you find, what you are! — Be your own woman. Belong to those you love. Talk to my poems, and talk to your heart — I’m in both: if you need me. I lied, Linda. I did love my mother and she loved me. She never held me but I miss her, so that I have to deny I ever loved her — or she me! Silly Anne! So there!



Anne Sexton, „A Self-Portrait in Letters“

Quelle: Letters of Note

For Eleanor Boylan Talking With God

God has a brown voice,
as soft and full as beer.
Eleanor, who is more beautiful than my mother,
is standing in her kitchen talking
and I am breathing in my cigarettes like poison.
She stands in her lemon-colored sun dress
motioning to God with her wet hands
glossy from the washing of egg plates.
She tells him! She tells him like a drunk
who doesn’t need to see to talk.
It’s casual but friendly.
God is as close as the ceiling.

Though no one can ever know,
I don’t think he has a face.
He had a face when I was six and a half.
Now he is large, covering up the sky
like a great resting jellyfish.
When I was eight I thought the dead people
stayed up there like blimps.
Now my chair is as hard as a scarecrow
and outside the summer flies sing like a choir.
Eleanor, before he leaves tell him…
Oh Eleanor, Eleanor,
tell him before death uses you up.

Anne Sexton

Quelle: Poetryfoundation