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513: For My Lover, Returning to His Wife

"For My Lover, Returning to His Wife"
Anne Sexton

She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

She has always been there, my darling.
She is, in fact, exquisite.
Fireworks in the dull middle of February
and as real as a cast-iron pot.

Let's face it, I have been momentary.
A luxury. A bright red sloop in the harbor.
My hair rising like smoke from the car window.
Littleneck clams out of season.

She is more than that. She is your have to have,
has grown you your practical your tropical growth.
This is not an experiment. She is all harmony.
She sees to oars and oarlocks for the dinghy,

has placed wild flowers at the window at breakfast,
sat by the potter's wheel at midday,
set forth three children under the moon,
three cherubs drawn by Michelangelo,

done this with her legs spread out
in the terrible months in the chapel.
If you glance up, the children are there
like delicate balloons resting on the ceiling.

She has also carried each one down the hall
after supper, their heads privately bent,
two legs protesting, person to person,
her face flushed with a song and their little sleep.

I give you back your heart.
I give you permission—

for the fuse inside her, throbbing
angrily in the dirt, for the bitch in her
and the burying of her wound—
for the burying of her small red wound alive—

for the pale flickering flare under her ribs,
for the drunken sailor who waits in her left pulse,
for the mother's knee, for the stockings,
for the garter belt, for the call—

the curious call
when you will burrow in arms and breasts
and tug at the orange ribbon in her hair
and answer the call, the curious call.

She is so naked and singular.
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 28th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)
Such beautiful strong, strong pictorial language. I adore the line about the children being like "delicate balloons resting on the ceiling".
I don't think I detect a hint of martyrdom, do I?
May. 28th, 2009 02:46 am (UTC)
I love the last two lines... she goes into all the detail about her lover's wife, these beautiful lines, and takes two to tell how she feels about herself. I love it.
May. 28th, 2009 03:04 am (UTC)
still one of my favorites.
May. 28th, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
This poem almost makes me uncomfortable, this whole "I give you permission" (to steal a word from a comment above) martyrdom. But of course, great poetry often does make us uncomfortable, and I really do like it for that.
May. 28th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
Oh MY.
May. 28th, 2009 04:03 am (UTC)
Wow. Now there's a last stanza!
May. 28th, 2009 04:05 am (UTC)
I've been both women, but as a wife, not endured such unfaithfulness, sexually, or even emotionally speaking. I want to send this to my ex-lover, but, I don't think he'd be able to break through the circumstances of the poem & apply the sentiment to our interaction.

Good to read something that approaches my own recklessness. Thank you.
May. 28th, 2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
i agree wholeheartedly. this speaks to me in strong, strong ways.
May. 28th, 2009 06:02 am (UTC)
This is astonishingly timely for me- I find I am caught today between two friends, one the lover, and one the wife.
May. 28th, 2009 08:51 pm (UTC)
I am not really a fan of this one. The speaker seems incredibly self-indulgent, like she is being gracious by allowing him to reject her. It's like she's trying to pretend that she has any control and that she's honoring the wife that she was just not good enough to replace. And this line:

I give you back your heart.
I give you permission—

Kind of made me angry.
May. 29th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
I agree with that. However, I do think the speaker kind of makes up for it with the last line. "I wash off" -- insubstantial, easy to erase.
May. 29th, 2009 01:51 am (UTC)
That doesn't make up for it at all. It isn't insubstantial. It's complete disregard for another person, even if you don't know them (narrator to wife). No matter what is written above it'll always be an ugly situation.
May. 29th, 2009 10:05 pm (UTC)
The speaker seems incredibly self-indulgent, like she is being gracious by allowing him to reject her. It's like she's trying to pretend that she has any control and that she's honoring the wife that she was just not good enough to replace

But so what? Do you not like the poem as a poem for that reason, or do you dislike the speaker of the poem and what she is feeling/suggesting? Plenty of great poetry is full of bad ethics! :) The way I look at it is, this is what a woman on this side of a love affair is feeling, and the point is not to agree or disagree with her but rather to observe the reality of her sentiments. Maybe she's a self-indulgent whore and maybe she's too proud to admit defeat, and maybe there needs to be a poem for a person in the midst of that phase of life.
May. 31st, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
I think content of a poem is just as valid a reason to dislike it as structure and phrasing. It's not as though a poem's content should be removed from the way it is expressed. It's all part of the same package.

I think I dislike the speaker, partly because I don't think she is actually expressing her feelings. She's covering them up with a false bravedo and she comes across as very fake and smug until the very last two lines. But those lines, I don't think, really make up for all the other comments. I don't think there is a reality in how she feels, but that may be because I cannot get into her thought process and feel how she feels or understand it.

I'm not saying the poem shouldn't have been written, nor am I saying she is a whore for making a bad decision about getting involved with a married man. I am saying that I personally do not like this poem. I don't like how it was expressed or what was expressed. That's all.
Jun. 1st, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
Fair enough. :)
May. 28th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
!! you posted it <3
May. 28th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
So I did. Thanks for encouraging me to do so.
May. 29th, 2009 12:48 am (UTC)
As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.


May. 29th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)
This is truly beautiful!
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


poetry, exceptindreams
a poem some days

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