Today, I am sharing another poem on the subject of children growing up / leaving home. I debated on whether or not to share this particular poem because it isn’t comforting. In fact, it is discomforting . . . troubling . . . distant. In the end, I decided that is exactly why it should be shared. No relationship is perfect; no love is either – even between a parent and child there will be times of uncomfortable distance. These difficult times deserve as much thought and reflection as any other, if not, perhaps, more. I have been someone’s daughter my entire life, and for more than the second half of this life, I have been a mother to two daughters of my own. I know firsthand, and from both sides, that relationships between mothers and daughters can be especially delicate.
Shortly after I discovered my favorite style of poetry: Confessional — and in the form of Sylvia Plath — I made it my mission to “discover” more work similar to Plath’s. My second “find” was Anne Sexton. Several years ago, I purchased The Complete Poems: Anne Sexton. Although I love this book simply because it is, and because it is mine, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have not read every poem or page, even after years of it sitting on my bookshelf. I do go through it at least a couple of times a year, usually back to the same handful of poems, but I do occasionally come across another poem that I didn’t notice before and add it to my list of most-loved Anne Sexton poetry. She was tremendously talented and intelligent with her words and I respect and admire her work greatly. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t always have the attention span for a poem that goes on for 10 pages, let alone 18. I will eagerly dive into (and finish) a novel of more than a thousand pages, but a poem of more than three, I will usually abandon. But that is my flaw, my fault, and, I’m sure, my loss. Her work definitely deserves the time and attention.
Thanks for reading!
Mother and Daughter (a poem by Anne Sexton) Linda, you are leaving your old body now, It lies flat, an old butterfly, all arm, all leg, all wing, loose as an old dress. I reach out toward it but my fingers turn to cankers and I am motherwarm and used, just as your childhood is used. Question you about this and you hold up pearls. Question you about this and you pass by armies. Question you about this - you with your big clock going, its hands wider than jackstraws - and you'll sew up a continent. Now that you are eighteen I give you my booty, my spoils, my Mother & Co. and my ailments. Question you about this and you'll not know the answer - the muzzle at the oxygen, the tubes, the pathways, the war and the war's vomit. Keep on, keep on, keep on, carrying keepsakes to the boys, carrying powders to the boys, carrying, my Linda, blood to the bloodletter. Linda, you are leaving your old body now. You've picked my pocket clean and you've racked up all my poker chips and left me empty and, as the river between us narrows, you do calisthenics, that womanly leggy semaphore. Question you about this and you will sew me a shroud and hold up Monday's broiler and thumb out the chicken gut. Question you about this and you will see my death drooling at these gray lips while you, my burglar, will eat fruit and pass the time of day.