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To love another is something like prayer

November 27, 2022

– Anne Sexton, struggled with bipolar. She was unable to care for herself, neither for her children.

Born Anne Gray Harvey in Newton, Massachusetts, on November 9, 1928; her father was a wool merchant and her mother an intelligent glamorous socialite. Money was hardly a problem for the family. Mainly dysfunctional, the nucleus struggled with sophisticated and healthy relations.
Anne was close to her great aunt who took care of her and her other siblings during the summer holidays. At the tender age of thirteen years, tragedy struck for Anne. Her aunt – her pillar of strength and emotional guardian – was insitutionalized for mental illness. Torn apart, her broken heart threw itself into writing. Left without an emotionally mature parent; penning her feelings was her only outlet to cope with the initial pain and loss. This; her effort and single-most coping mechanism was short-circuited by her mother who accused her of plagiarism.

She married Alfred Mueller Sexton II, “Kayo” (1928-197) at 19. Their marriage was turbulent but seemed to provide a framework for writing. Her ongoing mental health issues forced her into very dark places from time to time. After her initial hospitalization she wrote about her struggles and showed her poems to her therapist. He encouraged her to write poetry. From that day she found herself on the road to become the future Pulitzer Prizer winner. Her third book, To Live or Die, won her the Prestigious Prize for Poetry in 1967. 

In her poem Admonitions to a Special Person – Anne Sexton speaks of truth and plays the devil’s advocate, addressing her own childhood trauma of a young woman interrupted.

Admonitions to a Special Person

Watch out for power
for its avalanche can bury you,
snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain.

Watch out for hate,
it can open its mouth and you’ll fling yourself out
to eat off your leg, an instant leper. 

Watch out for friends,
because when you betray them,
as you will,
they will bury their heads in the toilet
and flush themselves away.

Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.

Watch out for games, the actor’s part,
the speech planned, known, given,
for it will give you away
and you will stand like a naked little boy,
pissing on your own child-bed.

Watch out for love,
(unless it is true,
and every part of you says yes including the toes,)
it will wrap you up like a mummy,
and your scream won’t be heard
and none of your running will run.

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

Special person,
if I were you I’d pay no attention
to admonitions from me,
made somewhat out of your words
and somewhat out of mine.
A collaboration.

I do not believe a word I have said,
except some, except I think of you like a young tree
with pasted on leaves and know you’ll root
and the real green thing will come.

Let go. Let go.
O special person,
possible leaves,
this typewriter likes you on the way to them,
but wants to break crystal glasses
in celebration,
for you,
when the dark crust is thrown off
and you float all around
like a happened balloon.

In her admonishments, she gives advice then retracts, and grabs them back.

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5 Comments
  1. Thank you for this intriguing and candid view of one of the greats in poetry. Her life a testimony to her strength and courage. A courage to tell it like it is as shown in the power of her writing… its imagery warm and absolutely unique. No on writes like her, I love her work!!
    Thank you for sharing. Always a pleasure to read.😊

    • You are most welcome. I just took one excerpt from her turbulent and amazing life story. There is much to learn. This is really the tip of the iceberg.
      I’m so pleased to hear that she is one of your favourites. A marvel to read.

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