Wanting to Die by Anne Sexton

Since you ask, most days I cannot remember.
I walk in my clothing, unmarked by that voyage.
Then the almost unnameable lust returns.

Even then I have nothing against life.
I know well the grass blades you mention,
the furniture you have placed under the sun.

But suicides have a special language.
Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
They never ask why build.

Twice I have so simply declared myself,
have possessed the enemy, eaten the enemy,
have taken on his craft, his magic.

In this way, heavy and thoughtful,
warmer than oil or water,
I have rested, drooling at the mouth-hole.

I did not think of my body at needle point.
Even the cornea and the leftover urine were gone.
Suicides have already betrayed the body.

Still-born, they don’t always die,
but dazzled, they can’t forget a drug so sweet
that even children would look on and smile.

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—
that, all by itself, becomes a passion.
Death’s a sad bone; bruised, you’d say,

and yet she waits for me, year after year,
to so delicately undo an old wound,
to empty my breath from its bad prison.

Balanced there, suicides sometimes meet,
raging at the fruit a pumped-up moon,
leaving the bread they mistook for a kiss,

leaving the page of the book carelessly open,
something unsaid, the phone off the hook
and the love whatever it was, an infection.

Anne Sexton

Note: In 1967 Anne Sexton received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for Live or Die (1966). She asphyxiated herself with carbon monoxide in her garage in Boston on 4th October 1974.

Anne Sexton’s Life

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About russellboyle.com

Russell Boyle, of russellboyle.com, is a mathematics teacher, writer, and poet. Russell is the author of a number of teaching resources, including the Year 7 to 8 Mathematics Short-Answer Tasks, the Year 7 to 10 Mathematics Multiple-Choice Tasks, the Year 9 Extended-Response Tasks, the solutions to the Year 12 VCAA Mathematics Exams and the Web-Programming For Beginners series of courses. Russell's poetry anthologies are titled The Beginning, Footprints and Loneliness.
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8 Responses to Wanting to Die by Anne Sexton

  1. Andrew Ocean says:

    Great: It’s 4:36 AM, I’m struggling with insomnia and depression and here I am. 0 :^{)}

  2. CL says:

    I found this on YouTube recently.

  3. Julian O'Dea says:

    Powerful poem. Sad backstory. Yes, I have heard that “do you have a plan?” question. I think it may be to test the person’s seriousness.

  4. indytony says:

    “Like carpenters they want to know which tools.
    They never ask why build.”

    So true. When we discover a person is suicidal, we are taught to ask, “Do you have a plan,” not “Why?” Maybe this is necessary in the short-run, but ultimately we need to ask, “Why?”

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