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  • Ana Savković

Anne Sexton: The Ambition Bird

Source: Unsplash, downloaded (9.2.2021.)

Sylvia's Death

for Sylvia Plath

O Sylvia, Sylvia,

with a dead box of stones and spoons,

with two children, two meteors

wandering loose in a tiny playroom,

with your mouth into the sheet,

into the roofbeam, into the dumb prayer,

(Sylvia, Sylvia

where did you go

after you wrote me

from Devonshire

about raising potatoes

and keeping bees?)

what did you stand by,

just how did you lie down into?

Thief —

how did you crawl into,

crawl down alone

into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,

the death we said we both outgrew,

the one we wore on our skinny breasts,

the one we talked of so often each time

we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston,

the death that talked of analysts and cures,

the death that talked like brides with plots,

the death we drank to,

the motives and the quiet deed?

(In Boston

the dying

ride in cabs,

yes death again,

that ride home

with our boy.)

O Sylvia, I remember the sleepy drummer

who beat on our eyes with an old story,

how we wanted to let him come

like a sadist or a New York fairy

to do his job,

a necessity, a window in a wall or a crib,

and since that time he waited

under our heart, our cupboard,

and I see now that we store him up

year after year, old suicides

and I know at the news of your death

a terrible taste for it, like salt,

(And me,

me too.

And now, Sylvia,

you again

with death again,

that ride home

with our boy.)

And I say only

with my arms stretched out into that stone place,

what is your death

but an old belonging,

a mole that fell out

of one of your poems?

(O friend,

while the moon's bad,

and the king's gone,

and the queen's at her wit's end

the bar fly ought to sing!)

O tiny mother,

you too!

O funny duchess!

O blonde thing!

The Ambition Bird

So it has come to this –

insomnia at 3:15 A.M.,

the clock tolling its engine

like a frog following

a sundial yet having an electric

seizure at the quarter hour.

The business of words keeps me awake.

I am drinking cocoa,

the warm brown mama.

I would like a simple life

yet all night I am laying

poems away in a long box.

It is my immortality box,

my lay-away plan,

my coffin.

All night dark wings

flopping in my heart.

Each an ambition bird.

The bird wants to be dropped

from a high place like Tallahatchie Bridge.

He wants to light a kitchen match

and immolate himself.

He wants to fly into the hand of Michelangelo

and come out painted on a ceiling.

He wants to pierce the hornet’s nest

and come out with a long godhead.

He wants to take bread and wine

and bring forth a man happily floating in the Caribbean.

He wants to be pressed out like a key

so he can unlock the Magi.

He wants to take leave among strangers

passing out bits of his heart like hors d’oeuvres.

He wants to die changing his clothes

and bolt for the sun like a diamond.

He wants, I want.

Dear God, wouldn’t it be

good enough just to drink cocoa?

I must get a new bird

and a new immortality box.

There is folly enough inside this one.

Just Once

Just once I knew what life was for.

In Boston, quite suddenly, I understood;

walked there along the Charles River,

watched the lights copying themselves,

all neoned and strobe-hearted, opening

their mouths as wide as opera singers;

counted the stars, my little campaigners,

my scar daisies, and knew that I walked my love

on the night green side of it and cried

my heart to the eastbound cars and cried

my heart to the westbound cars and took

my truth across a small humped bridge

and hurried my truth, the charm of it, home

and hoarded these constants into morning

only to find them gone.

Source: The complete poems (Sexton, A. (1999.) The complete poems, Boston; New York: Houghton Mifflin Company)


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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