Listening to Anne Sexton in the Dark


All cities are alike, they never sleep, this one
wraps about my feet, legs, tightens

’round my chest

a cold snake coiling a green apple
fruit of my father’s despair, apple of anguish

bittersweet little globe– I don’t know why

how we did it
ruined, ruined the earth, our home, let it burn.

How I wish there were going back–

Jesus left on holiday, will not return
cannot be reached by phone

that much I got

when the butcher of Damascus
sang his people a sarin laced lullaby

no one to stop him, how can I forget that

their swollen faces float on air
fly out of the dark like bats.

Some dream
of leaving the earth, yes

I’d like to leave before the end
lying here sleepless pretending I can.


Lady, symbiotic comfort, woman telling
the darkness you endured, more than a voice

ghost of a sad genius gone sane

when your world leaned unbearable weight
you wrote your way out from under and through

each vodka minute
each twitch of flesh unfulfilled–

I know the open wound of nights alone
nicotine kisses from the shrink you fucked

caviar, wine at eight
barbituric bed sheets in gloom

not knowing where to turn, but words
a way out of hell were no way home for you

all paths leading to the exact same place
The banks of oblivion, but wait

A lunette in the window, a slip of a moon
A lady’s slipper hung on a star, the evening goddess!

Oh starry sky be tame tonight

I fear I will float out of body out of mind to sleep
With the Bear in Odin’s gently swaying wain.


The tales must be told, the poetry old
older than serpent wisdom
the memory of God
the secrets he’s never told,
he’s always got something
up his sleeve!
In a room of fugitive cold
the lit clock-face stares at me
as if to say, “I cannot be denied.”
then you, Sexton, darkly clear

Lost, lovely, what does your grave hold?

Are you rowing somewhere near
the river Mnemosyne
asking “Where is rest, where?”
Peace, gentle muse
it is under your boat, the Isle of God
it was always there
it is the smoldering Earth.
Are you so sure
You don’t have a wild card too?
Let go the oars, taste
the waters of Lethe my dear

Stop your terrible rowing and end your fear.

Rayn Roberts 2018


Above Portrait of Sexton by Joanna Rusinek


A story, a story!
(Let it go. Let it come.)
I was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
into this world.
First came the crib
with its glacial bars.
Then dolls
and the devotion to their plactic mouths.
Then there was school,
the little straight rows of chairs,
blotting my name over and over,
but undersea all the time,
a stranger whose elbows wouldn’t work.
Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched-
though touch is all-
but I grew,
like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
still ignorant of Him, my arms, and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I’d say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyebal,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat insdie me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.

As the African says:
This is my tale which I have told,
if it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
take somewhere else and let some return to me.
This story ends with me still rowing.


Have a Tao Day.

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