21 September 2004

napo #25 -- Anne Sexton

after "The Truth the Dead Know" by Anne Sexton:

The Undying Dead

For my father, born August 1916, reported dead
in the early-eighties in an ICU in Canton, Ohio

Told, I cheer and flail my arms,
celebrating his painful annihilation,
declining the offer to sink his remains.
It is done. I am free from any more.

One time I went to him. I visited
a room where he lay strapped to a bed
beside a black man tied to a chair, keening,
punching the wall of the state hospital in Canton.

My father, his face drugged and spacy,
his head rising up from the starched sheets, his hands
pawing at my dress, at my breasts. Allie, he moans.
Now I’m his sister. Better beaten or loved?

How to get through. One more place
I found him, naked and flayed by medics,
purple-gray skin needled and wired,
green threads creeping and jerking like time.

How to snare the dead? He hangs like a bat
in a dark space. He fills more than space
in the muddled cave of memory. He declines
to be bled, eyes, heart and shuttered soul.

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