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Unknown Girl In A Maternity Ward Analysis

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

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Child, the current of your breath is six days long.

You lie, a small knuckle on my white bed;

lie, fisted like a snail, so small and strong

at my breast. Your lips are animals; you are fed

with love. At first hunger is not wrong.

The nurses nod their caps; you are shepherded

down starch halls with the other unnested throng

in wheeling baskets. You tip like a cup; your head

moving to my touch. You sense the way we belong.

But this is an institution bed.

You will not know me very long.

The doctors are enamel. They want to know

the facts. They guess about the man who left me,

some pendulum soul, going the way men go

and leave you full of child. But our case history

stays blank. All I did was let you grow.

Now we are here for all the ward to see.

They thought I was strange, although

I never spoke a word. I burst empty of you,

letting you see how the air is so.

The doctors chart the riddle they ask of me

and I turn my head away. I do not know.

Yours is the only face I recognize.

Bone at my bone, you drink my answers in.

Six times a day I prize

your need, the animals of your lips, your skin

growing warm and plump. I see your eyes

lifting their tents. They are blue stones, they begin

to outgrow their moss. You blink in surprise

and I wonder what you can see, my funny kin,

as you trouble my silence. I am a shelter of lies.

Should I learn to speak again, or hopeless in

such sanity will I touch some face I recognize?

Down the hall the baskets start back. My arms

fit you like a sleeve, they hold

catkins of your willows, the wild bee farms

of your nerves, each muscle and fold

of your first days. Your old man's face disarms

the nurses. But the doctors return to scold

me. I speak. It is you my silence harms.

I should have known; I should have told

them something to write down. My voice alarms

my throat. "Name of father—none." I hold

you and name you bastard in my arms.

And now that's that. There is nothing more

that I can say or lose.

Others have traded life before

and could not speak. I tighten to refuse

your owling eyes, my fragile visitor.

I touch your cheeks, like flowers. You bruise

against me. We unlearn. I am a shore

rocking off you. You break from me. I choose

your only way, my small inheritor

and hand you off, trembling the selves we lose.

Go child, who is my sin and nothing more.


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