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The Death Baby Analysis

Author: poem of Anne Sexton Type: poem Views: 6

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I was an ice baby.

I turned to sky blue.

My tears became two glass beads.

My mouth stiffened into a dumb howl.

They say it was a dream

but I remember that hardening.

My sister at six

dreamt nightly of my death:

"The baby turned to ice.

Someone put her in the refrigerator

and she turned as hard as a Popsicle."

I remember the stink of the liverwurst.

How I was put on a platter and laid

between the mayonnaise and the bacon.

The rhythm of the refrigerator

had been disturbed.

The milk bottle hissed like a snake.

The tomatoes vomited up their stomachs.

The caviar turned to lave.

The pimentos kissed like cupids.

I moved like a lobster,

slower and slower.

The air was tiny.

The air would not do.


I was at the dogs' party.

I was their bone.

I had been laid out in their kennel

like a fresh turkey.

This was my sister's dream

but I remember that quartering;

I remember the sickbed smell

of the sawdust floor, the pink eyes,

the pink tongues and the teeth, those nails.

I had been carried out like Moses

and hidden by the paws

of ten Boston bull terriers,

ten angry bulls

jumping like enormous roaches.

At first I was lapped,

rough as sandpaper.

I became very clean.

Then my arm was missing.

I was coming apart.

They loved me until

I was gone.


My Dy-dee doll

died twice.

Once when I snapped

her head off

and let if float in the toilet

and once under the sun lamp

trying to get warm

she melted.

She was a gloom,

her face embracing

her little bent arms.

She died in all her rubber wisdom.


I died seven times

in seven ways

letting death give me a sign,

letting death place his mark on my forehead,

crossed over, crossed over

And death took root in that sleep.

In that sleep I held an ice baby

and I rocked it

and was rocked by it.

Oh Madonna, hold me.

I am a small handful.


My mother died

unrocked, unrocked.

Weeks at her deathbed

seeing her thrust herself against the metal bars,

thrashing like a fish on the hook

and me low at her high stage,

letting the priestess dance alone,

wanting to place my head in her lap

or even take her in my arms somehow

and fondle her twisted gray hair.

But her rocking horse was pain

with vomit steaming from her mouth.

Her belly was big with another child,

cancer's baby, big as a football.

I could not soothe.

With every hump and crack

there was less Madonna

until that strange labor took her.

Then the room was bankrupt.

That was the end of her paying.

5. MAX

Max and I

two immoderate sisters,

two immoderate writers,

two burdeners,

made a pact.

To beat death down with a stick.

To take over.

To build our death like carpenters.

When she had a broken back,

each night we built her sleep.

Talking on the hot line

until her eyes pulled down like shades.

And we agreed in those long hushed phone calls

that when the moment comes

we'll talk turkey,

we'll shoot words straight from the hip,

we'll play it as it lays.


when death comes with its hood

we won't be polite.



you lie in my arms like a cherub,

as heavy as bread dough.

Your milky wings are as still as plastic.

Hair soft as music.

Hair the color of a harp.

And eyes made of glass,

as brittle as crystal.

Each time I rock you

I think you will break.

I rock. I rock.

Glass eye, ice eye,

primordial eye,

lava eye,

pin eye,

break eye,

how you stare back!

Like the gaze if small children

you know all about me.

You have worn my underwear.

You have read my newspaper.

You have seen my father whip me.

You have seen my stroke my father's whip.

I rock. I rock.

We plunge back and forth

comforting each other.

We are stone.

We are carved, a pietà

that swings.

Outside, the world is a chilly army.

Outside, the sea is brought to its knees.

Outside, Pakistan is swallowed in a mouthful.

I rock. I rock.

You are my stone child

with still eyes like marbles.

There is a death baby

for each of us.

We own him.

His smell is our smell.

Beware. Beware.

There is a tenderness.

There is a love

for this dumb traveler

waiting in his pink covers.


heavy with cancer or disaster

I will look up at Max

and say: It is time.

Hand me the death baby

and there will be

that final rocking.


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