Anne Sexton’s Last Reading


Anne Sexton Love Poems book cover

I was a young poet when I saw Anne Sexton give a reading at Goucher College in Maryland  USA.  It was 1974, I believe.  She committed suicide the following day.

I wrote this poem about that reading.  It appeared in my book  At the Year’s Elbow:


Anne Sexton’s Last Reading


Seven years later I remember

the long red dress

clinging to your lanky frame,

a slash of blood

in the middle of the stage.

Your poems,too,

like slashes of blood.

How impolite of me

to stare at them.

You hung them in the air

with your

low nonchalant voice,

arranged them with

garish foreign hands,

garnished them

with cigarette smoke.

“Unless God keep the city,

the watchman watches

in vain.”

You said it was from Kennedy.

Now I know it is a psalm,

and now I know

that two days later,

you killed yourself

in a closed garage

with poison smoke

unnoticed by the watchman.

Rains of my regret

cannot wash

the blood from

your poems.


Anne Sexton

Published by ahiggins2013

poet, birder, senior citizen, cancer survivor, Catholic sister. Eight books of poetry published: At the Year’s Elbow, Mellen Poetry Press 2000; Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky, Plain View Press 2007; chapbooks: Pick It Up and Read, Finishing Line Press 2008, How the Hand Behaves, Finishing Line Press 2009, Digging for God, Wipf and Stock 2010, Vexed Questions, Aldrich Press 2013, Reconnaissance, Texture Press 2014, and Life List, Finishing Line Press, 2015.

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