Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Anne Sexton

The Truth The Dead Know

Gone, I say and walk from the 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 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.

Fascinating, these two versions of the same poem, one obviously recorded before the revised version was published.


  1. Wow. I can't decide which one I like more -- perhaps her voice (I've never heard it) adds to the first version, makes it more authentic? Or maybe I only think that because you've written that it was an earlier version? I like the words "my love" better than "darling" and that whole verse isn't nearly as powerful to me as the one she read.

    Thanks for posting this. It kind of gave me chills.

  2. I like the ending in the reading better; "live now, live now."

  3. Wish I could see the video but my son used up all the bandwidth downloading some music thingy and we are on dial-up for another few days. I'll try and sneak a look at work. I am intrigued. (I have to say Elizabeth I really like 'darling' for a change - it is so suddenly loving... and I agree mybabyjohn, that 'live now, live now' is the best ending. The best. X

  4. You must check out the poem on Sarah Jane's blog....

  5. I love Anne Sexton's work - more and more as I get older. I think she's such a risk-taking poet. I'd like to mix the versions together - I like the My darling best, as it's an endearment she used in other poems. I also like the 'Live now, live now' but I do love the ending of the other version as well and I don't like the 'tiny smiles' of the recorded version. Plus, I do like the 'whitehearted water'.

    This made me conscious how some of those revision choices I argue back and forth about inside my head are whisker thin decisions in the end!

  6. the spoken version makes more 'sense' to me and comes full circle, with their smiles and admonitions to 'live now.'

    I don't know her work very well -- thanks for prompting my curiosity.

    Live now, T.

  7. Interesting, T.
    The second one appeals to me more, perhaps because she is reading it, and it seems to have a positive message at the end.