Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Tuesday Poem: "The Operation" by Anne Sexton

After the sweet promise,
the summer’s mild retreat

from mother’s cancer, the winter months of her death,

I come to this white office, its sterile sheet,

its hard tablet, its stirrups, to hold my breath

while I, who must, allow the glove its oily rape,

to hear the almost mighty doctor over me equate

my ills with hers

and decide to operate.

It grew in her

as simply as a child would grow,

as simply as she housed me once, fat and female.

Always my most gentle house before that embryo

of evil spread in her shelter and she grew frail.

Frail, we say, remembering fear, that face we wear

in the room of the special smells of dying, fear

where the snoring mouth gapes

and is not dear.

There was snow everywhere.

Each day I grueled through

its sloppy peak, its blue-struck days, my boots

slapping into the hospital halls, past the retinue

of nurses at the desk, to murmur in cahoots

with hers outside her door, to enter with the outside

air stuck on my skin, to enter smelling her pride,

her upkeep, and to lie

as all who love have lied.

No reason to be afraid,

my almost mighty doctor reasons.

I nod, thinking that woman’s dying

must come in seasons,

thinking that living is worth buying.

I walk out, scuffing a raw leaf,

kicking the clumps of dead straw

that were this summer’s lawn.

Automatically I get in my car,

knowing the historic thief

is loose in my house

and must be set upon.


Clean of the body’s hair,

I lie smooth from breast to leg.

All that was special, all that was rare

is common here. Fact: death too is in the egg.

Fact: the body is dumb, the body is meat.

And tomorrow the O.R. Only the summer was sweet.

The rooms down the hall are calling

all night long, while the night outside

sucks at the trees. I hear limbs falling

and see yellow eyes flick in the rain. Wide eyed

and still whole I turn in my bin like a shorn lamb.

A nurse’s flashlight blinds me to see who I am.

The walls color in a wash

of daylight until the room takes its objects

into itself again. I smoke furtively and squash

the butt and hide it with my watch and other effects.

The halls bustle with legs. I smile at the nurse

who smiles for the morning shift. Day is worse.

Scheduled late, I cannot drink

or eat, except for yellow pills

and a jigger of water. I wait and think

until she brings two mysterious needles: the skills

she knows she knows, promising, soon you’ll be out.

But nothing is sure. No one. I wait in doubt.

I wait like a kennel of dogs

jumping against their fence. At ten

she returns, laughs and catalogues

my resistance to drugs. On the stretcher, citizen

and boss of my own body still, I glide down the halls

and rise in the iron cage toward science and pitfalls.

The great green people stand

over me; I roll on the table

under a terrible sun, following their command

to curl, head touching knee if I am able.

Next, I am hung up like a saddle and they begin.

Pale as an angel I float out over my own skin.

I soar in hostile air

over the pure women in labor,

over the crowning heads of babies being born.

I plunge down the backstair

calling mother at the dying door,

to rush back to my own skin, tied where it was torn.

Its nerves pull like wires

snapping from the leg to the rib.

Strangers, their faces rolling lilke hoops, require

my arm. I am lifted into my aluminum crib.


Skull flat, here in my harness,

thick with shock, I call mother

to help myself, call toe to frog,

that woolly bat, that tongue of dog;

call God help and all the rest.

The soul that swam the furious water

sinks now in flies and the brain

flops like a docked fish and the eyes

are flat boat decks riding out the pain.

My nurses, those starchy ghosts,

hover over me for my lame hours

and my lame days. The mechanics

of the body pump for their tricks.

I rest on their needles, am dosed

and snoring amid the orange flowers

and the eyes of visitors. I wear,

like some senile woman, a scarlet

candy package ribbon in my hair.

Four days from home I lurk on my

mechanical parapet with two pillows

at my elbows, as soft as praying cushions.

My knees work with the bed that runs

on power. I grumble to forget the lie

I ought to hear, but don't. God knows

I thought I’d die—but here I am,

recalling mother, the sound of her

good morning, the odor of orange and jam.

All’s well, they say. They say I’m better.

I lounge in frills or, picturesque,

I wear bunny pink slippers in the hall.

I read a new book and shuffle past the desk

to mail the author my first fan letter.

Time now to pack this humpty-dumpty

back the frightened way she came

and run along, Anne, and run along now,

my stomach laced like a football

for the game.

by Anne Sexton

For more information about poet, Anne Sexton, see:


Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Tuesday Poem: "America" by Allen Ginsberg

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.
America two dollars and twentyseven cents January 17, 1956.   

I can’t stand my own mind.

America when will we end the human war?

Go fuck yourself with your atom bomb.

I don’t feel good don’t bother me.

I won’t write my poem till I’m in my right mind.

America when will you be angelic?

When will you take off your clothes?

When will you look at yourself through the grave?

When will you be worthy of your million Trotskyites?

America why are your libraries full of tears?

America when will you send your eggs to India?

I’m sick of your insane demands.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.   

Your machinery is too much for me.

You made me want to be a saint.

There must be some other way to settle this argument.   

Burroughs is in Tangiers I don’t think he’ll come back it’s sinister.   

Are you being sinister or is this some form of practical joke?   

I’m trying to come to the point.

I refuse to give up my obsession.

America stop pushing I know what I’m doing.

America the plum blossoms are falling.

I haven’t read the newspapers for months, everyday somebody goes on trial for murder.

America I feel sentimental about the Wobblies.

America I used to be a communist when I was a kid I’m not sorry.   

I smoke marijuana every chance I get.

I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet.   

When I go to Chinatown I get drunk and never get laid.   

My mind is made up there’s going to be trouble.

You should have seen me reading Marx.

My psychoanalyst thinks I’m perfectly right.

I won’t say the Lord’s Prayer.

I have mystical visions and cosmic vibrations.

America I still haven’t told you what you did to Uncle Max after he came over from Russia.

I’m addressing you.

Are you going to let your emotional life be run by Time Magazine?   

I’m obsessed by Time Magazine.

I read it every week.

Its cover stares at me every time I slink past the corner candystore.   

I read it in the basement of the Berkeley Public Library.

It’s always telling me about responsibility. Businessmen are serious. Movie producers are serious. Everybody’s serious but me.   

It occurs to me that I am America.

I am talking to myself again.

Asia is rising against me.

I haven’t got a chinaman’s chance.

I’d better consider my national resources.

My national resources consist of two joints of marijuana millions of genitals an unpublishable private literature that jetplanes 1400 miles an hour and twentyfive-thousand mental institutions.

I say nothing about my prisons nor the millions of underprivileged who live in my flowerpots under the light of five hundred suns.

I have abolished the whorehouses of France, Tangiers is the next to go.

My ambition is to be President despite the fact that I’m a Catholic.

America how can I write a holy litany in your silly mood?

I will continue like Henry Ford my strophes are as individual as his automobiles more so they’re all different sexes.

America I will sell you strophes $2500 apiece $500 down on your old strophe

America free Tom Mooney

America save the Spanish Loyalists

America Sacco & Vanzetti must not die

America I am the Scottsboro boys.

America when I was seven momma took me to Communist Cell meetings they sold us garbanzos a handful per ticket a ticket costs a nickel and the speeches were free everybody was angelic and sentimental about the workers it was all so sincere you have no idea what a good thing the party was in 1835 Scott Nearing was a grand old man a real mensch Mother Bloor the Silk-strikers’ Ewig-Weibliche made me cry I once saw the Yiddish orator Israel Amter plain. Everybody must have been a spy.

America you don’t really want to go to war.

America its them bad Russians.

Them Russians them Russians and them Chinamen. And them Russians.   

The Russia wants to eat us alive. The Russia’s power mad. She wants to take our cars from out our garages.

Her wants to grab Chicago. Her needs a Red Reader’s Digest. Her wants our auto plants in Siberia. Him big bureaucracy running our fillingstations.

That no good. Ugh. Him make Indians learn read. Him need big black niggers. Hah. Her make us all work sixteen hours a day. Help.   

America this is quite serious.

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.   

America is this correct?

I’d better get right down to the job.

It’s true I don’t want to join the Army or turn lathes in precision parts factories, I’m nearsighted and psychopathic anyway.

America I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.

Berkeley, January 17, 1956

by Allen Ginsberg

For more information about poet, Allen Ginsberg, see: