Poet's Corner: Anne Sexton

Today's poem comes from Anne Sexton.  The first time I read "The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator" I was a sophomore at Penn State in my Women's Studies class with Dr. Lucy Morrison.  Hands down one of my favorite teachers of all time.

Reading and analyzing this poem was a lot of fun.  I can't remember doing much of that in high school, but who can say, I slept a lot.  Unfortunately, an outraged mother had the poem removed from the syllabus due to the sexual content.  I can understand the inappropriateness in a high school classroom, but college?  Really?  Well, I'm not a fan of censorship.  So, feast your brain on this!        

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator
By Anne Sexton

The end of the affair is always death.
She's my workshop. Slippery eye,
out of the tribe of myself my breath
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Finger to finger, now she's mine.
She's not too far. She's my encounter.
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,
that every single couple puts together
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,
the abundant two on sponge and feather,
kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

I break out of my body this way,
an annoying miracle. Could I
put the dream market on display?
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said. 

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
a piano at her fingertips, shame
on her lips and a flute's speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead. 

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a women takes
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today's paper says that you are wed. 

At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.


Anna said…
Wow, that's amazing. I can't believe I hadn't read it before. The lines "Today's paper says that you are wed. / At night, alone, I marry the bed" took me to my knees. Thanks for sharing.
Laura Campbell said…
I'm glad you enjoyed it. The sadness of a past relationship draws me in, and I feel strength in the fact that she never gives up on pleasure. She's still alive.
Michael Offutt said…
I love this poem. Thanks for posting it Laura. I'm going to save it to my hard drive.
Misha said…
Hmmm... interesting to read. Very well written. Thank for posting it. :-)

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