Our bodies, lucent under the bedclothes,
fit tightly like the pieces of a broken
terra-cotta vase now newly mended,
smooth surfaces, no jagged edges visible.
I’ve read that countries were so interlocked
before tectonic heavings, when the ocean
parted Mexico and Mauritania.
Brazil’s shoulder was hoisted to Nigeria,
Italy pressed Libya, Alaska
lay so close to Russia that fingers touched.
Our tremulous hands held fast in sleep at dawn;
legs, arms entwined, one continent, one mass.
by Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
MOSTLY I SEE
It is not what she would want me
but I picture her
fresh washed hair
done up in brush rollers
crisp white sleeveless blouse
with denim shorts.
If I squint real hard,
I can see her in a party dress,
hair bouffant, straight from the salon
mostly I see
the hair rollers,
see her sitting at the piano.
With the washer jumping out of tune
in the other room,
I watch her play Sunrise Serenade
I hear her long painted nails
clicking on the keys.
by Anne Sexton
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while i think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
THERE are no gods, and you can please yourself
have a game of tennis, go out in the car, do some shopping, sit
and talk, talk, talk
with a cigarette browning your fingers.
There are no gods, and you can please yourself --
go and please yourself --
But leave me alone, leave me alone, to myself!
and then in the room, whose is the presence
that makes the air so still and lovely to me?
Who is it that softly touches the sides of my breast
and touches me over the heart
so that my heart beats soothed, soothed, soothed and at peace?
Who is it smooths the bed-sheets like the cool
smooth ocean where the fishes rest on edge
in their own dream?
Who is it that clasps and kneads my naked feet, till they
till all is well, till all is utterly well? the lotus-lilies of the feet!
I tell you, it is no woman, it is no man, for I am alone.
And I fall asleep with the gods, the gods
that are not, or that are
according to the soul's desire,
like a pool into which we plunge, or do not plunge.
I HAVE been defeated and dragged down by pain
and worsted by the evil world-soul of today.
But still I know that life is for delight
and for bliss
as now when the tiny wavelets of the sea
tip the morning light on edge, and spill it with delight
to show how inexhaustible it is.
And life is for delight, and bliss
like now when the white sun kisses the sea
and plays with the wavelets like a panther playing with its cubs
cuffing them with soft paws,
and blows that are caresses,
kisses of the soft-balled paws, where the talons are.
And life is for dread,
for doom and darkens, and the Sunderers
that sunder us from each other,
that strip us and destroy us and break us down
as the tall foxgloves and the mulleins and mallows
are torn down by dismembering autumn
till not a vestige is left, and black winter has no trace
of any such flowers;
and yet the roots below the blackness are intact:
the Thunderers and the Sunderers have their term,
their limit, their thus far and no further.
life is for kissing and for horrid strife.
Life is for the angels and the Sunderers,
Life is for the daimons and the demons,
those that put honey on our lips, and those that put salt.
But life is not
for the dead vanity of knowing better, nor the blank
cold comfort of superiority, nor silly
conceit of being immune,
nor puerility of contradictions
like saying snow is black, or desire is evil.
Life is for kissing and for horrid strife,
the angels and the Sunderers.
And perhaps in unknown Death we perhaps shall know
Oneness and poised immunity.
But why then should we die while we can live?
And while we live
the kissing and communing cannot cease
nor yet the striving and the horrid strife.
OBITUARY: WHAT IT DID NOT SAY
Before the word aerobic
was ever heard, she brisk-walked
three miles up a hill by the orchard
at sunrise and marveled.
She could identify thirty varieties
of apples, blindfolded,
by their smell.
She could hula-hoop but not limbo.
Though she had skin
like burnished leather
she was called beautiful.
She was not survived
by children of her flesh,
but by hundreds
of the heart.
Her gift to students
When disease took her eyesight
a day at a time,
she still recognized the essence of oak
and willow, a child by a cough
She saw the light
at the end of each tunnel.
She knew the source
of the light.
Her book is for sale