Friday, July 6, 2012

blind, feeling a way

It's three months until we move, but in the spirit of making hay while the sun shines, I've begun casually, nostalgically sorting and packing a few things.  In a pile of books in the parlor I came across a collection of Anne Sexton's poems.  Opening randomly, I read--and burst into tears.

Daisy doesn't care for horses, but she is 13, and I see this moment coming.

Pain for a Daughter // Anne Sexton

Blind with love, my daughter
has cried nightly for horses,
those long necked marchers and churners
that she has mastered, any and all,
reining them in like a circus hand -
the excitable muscles and the ripe neck -
tending, this summer, a pony and a foal.

She who is squeamish to pull
a thorn from the dog’s paw
watched the pony blossom with distemper,
the underside of the jaw swelling
like an enormous grape,
Gritting her teeth with love,
she drained the boil and scoured it
with hydrogen peroxide until pus
ran like milk on the barn floor.

Blind with loss all winter,
in dungarees, a ski jacket, and a hard hat,
she visits the neighbors’ stables,
our acreage not zoned for barns,
they who own the flaming horses
and the swan-necked thoroughbred
that she tugs at and cajoles,
thinking it will burn like a furnace
under her small-hipped English seat.

Blind with pain, she limps home;
The thoroughbred has stood on her foot.
He rested there like a building;
He grew into her foot until they were one.
The marks of the horseshoe printed
into her flesh, the tips of her toes
ripped off like pieces of leather,
three toenails swirled like shells
and left to float in blood in her riding boot.

Blind with fear, she sits on the toilet,
her foot balanced over the washbasin,
her father, hydrogen peroxide in hand,
performing the rites of the cleansing.
She bites on a towel, sucked in breath,
sucked in and arched against the pain,
her eyes glancing off me where
I stand at the door, eyes locked
on the ceiling, eyes of a stranger,
And then she cries…
Oh! My god, Help me!

Where a child would have cried “Mama!”
Where a child would have believed “Mama!”
She bit the towel and called on God,
And I saw her life, stretch out…
I saw her torn in childbirth,
And I saw her, at that moment,
in her own death,
And I knew that she knew.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, where she's sharing some of the poems exchanged through the Summer Poem Swap she has organized.  I'm participating and will have at least three to share next Friday--thanks, Tabatha!


  1. OMG--I made the mistake of reading this at work and now I'm weeping!

  2. What a poem! Such evocative descriptions! (My own daughter just interrupted to ask me to feed her. Sorry, Poetry, your time is up.)

  3. I wasn't prepared for how this poem ended, either. Thanks for sharing.

    I remember a daughter at 13 as a particularly challenging age to parent! And we had horses back then. Now the daughter's 20, and the ride is much smoother.

    Good luck packing up....

  4. Powerful stuff...I had to close my eyes and collect myself after those last lines, though.


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