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The Division Of Parts Analysis

Author: poem of Anne Sexton Type: poem Views: 8

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Mother, my Mary Gray,

once resident of Gloucester

and Essex County,

a photostat of your will

arrived in the mail today.

This is the division of money.

I am one third

of your daughters counting my bounty

or I am a queen alone

in the parlor still,

eating the bread and honey.

It is Good Friday.

Black birds pick at my window sill.

Your coat in my closet,

your bright stones on my hand,

the gaudy fur animals

I do not know how to use,

settle on me like a debt.

A week ago, while the hard March gales

beat on your house,

we sorted your things: obstacles

of letters, family silver,

eyeglasses and shoes.

Like some unseasoned Christmas, its scales

rigged and reset,

I bundled out gifts I did not choose.

Now the houts of The Cross

rewind. In Boston, the devout

work their cold knees

toward that sweet martyrdom

that Christ planned. My timely loss

is too customary to note; and yet

I planned to suffer

and I cannot. It does not please

my yankee bones to watch

where the dying is done

in its usly hours. Black birds peck

at my window glass

and Easter will take its ragged son.

The clutter of worship

that you taught me, Mary Gray,

is old. I imitate

a memory of belief

that I do not own. I trip

on your death and jesus, my stranger

floats up over

my Christian home, wearing his straight

thorn tree. I have cast my lot

and am one third thief

of you. Time, that rearranger

of estates, equips

me with your garments, but not with grief.


This winter when

cancer began its ugliness

I grieved with you each day

for three months

and found you in your private nook

of the medicinal palace

for New England Women

and never once

forgot how long it took.

I read to you

from The New Yorker, ate suppers

you wouldn't eat, fussed

with your flowers,

joked with your nurses, as if I

were the balm among lepers,

as if I could undo

a life in hours

if I never said goodbye.

But you turned old,

all your fifty-eight years sliding

like masks from your skull;

and at the end

I packed your nightgowns in suitcases,

paid the nurses, came riding

home as if I'd been told

I could pretend

people live in places.


Since then I have pretended ease,

loved with the trickeries of need, but not enough

to shed my daughterhood

or sweeten him as a man.

I drink the five o' clock martinis

and poke at this dry page like a rough

goat. Fool! I fumble my lost childhood

for a mother and lounge in sad stuff

with love to catch and catch as catch can.

And Christ still waits. I have tried

to exorcise the memory of each event

and remain still, a mixed child,

heavy with cloths of you.

Sweet witch, you are my worried guide.

Such dangerous angels walk through Lent.

Their walls creak Anne! Convert! Convert!

My desk moves. Its cavr murmurs Boo

and I am taken and beguiled.

Or wrong. For all the way I've come

I'll have to go again. Instead, I must convert

to love as reasonable

as Latin, as sold as earthenware:

an equilibrium

I never knew. And Lent will keep its hurt

for someone else. Christ knows enough

staunch guys have hitched him in trouble.

thinking his sticks were badges to wear.


Spring rusts on its skinny branch

and last summer's lawn

is soggy and brown.

Yesterday is just a number.

All of its winters avalanche

out of sight. What was, is gone.

Mother, last night I slept

in your Bonwit Teller nightgown.

Divided, you climbed into my head.

There in my jabbering dream

I heard my own angry cries

and I cursed you, Dame

keep out of my slumber.

My good Dame, you are dead.

And Mother, three stones

slipped from your glittering eyes.

Now it's Friday's noon

and I would still curse

you with my rhyming words

and bring you flapping back, old love,

old circus knitting, god-in-her-moon,

all fairest in my lang syne verse,

the gauzy bride among the children,

the fancy amid the absurd

and awkward, that horn for hounds

that skipper homeward, that museum

keeper of stiff starfish, that blaze

within the pilgrim woman,

a clown mender, a dove's

cheek among the stones,

my Lady of first words,

this is the division of ways.

And now, while Christ stays

fastened to his Crucifix

so that love may praise

his sacrifice

and not the grotesque metaphor,

you come, a brave ghost, to fix

in my mind without praise

or paradise

to make me your inheritor.


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