Monday, June 01, 2009

Poem of the week & salsa!

My first writers' group (the one that I started back in, um, 1985 or 1986 -- we meet sporadically and casually these days, but we still have a powerful bond with one another) met yesterday afternoon. We sat around on Barb's back deck in the sunshine, which was lovely. Anyway, we generally bring some kind of munchies to share, and I was in a chips-and-salsa mood so that's what I brought. Except I randomly decided to bring a kind of salsa I'd never tried before: peach-mango! Boy oh boy, is that ever some good stuff. It has that spicy-sweet thing going on that I just love. Very summery and refreshing. I brought home what was left & just finished it off as an after-work snack (I had the late shift on the reference desk tonight so didn't get home until after 9). Yum.

Then I randomly stumbled across a poem I know I'd read before, but not recently. You know how sometimes a poem you've read before will haul off and wallop you upside the head like a whole new revelation? Yeah. That. This is the one that did it to me this time:

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 their 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

That third stanza! Holy crap. And the fourth one too. I'm generally allergic to drama and excessive intensity in my actual life (not counting whatever happens in the context of a rock show), but boy howdy do I love it in poems.

* * * * *

As I was typing that my computer made its little "you have a new message! go look at it instead of having any kind of actual attention span!" chime. I could tell from the first few words (gmail displays the subject line and the first few words of the message before you open it) that it was a rejection note -- when they're accepting something they usually use your name instead of the generic "Dear Poet" -- but was pleased to note a P.S. mentioning they'd liked one of the poems, which was my own favorite of the batch anyway. I think that's the first time I've ever gotten "ink" on an emailed rejection note; I've gotten emailed rejections that I suspected were the "encouraging" version of the form rejection, but I've never been sure about those. Too bad they didn't actually take any of the poems, but encouragement is encouraging and so I am duly encouraged.


Collin Kelley said...

It is June. I am tired of being brave.One of my favorite lines. Brava, Sexton!

The Promiscuous Reader said...

I've always liked Sexton, and I think it's time to pull out the books and reread her. But what really got to me about that poem was that both her parents were in their 50s when they died. Her mother was a year younger than I am. Intimations of mortality ...