Friday 9 August 2013

Day 385: Courage


This is the kind of poem that can open the heart like a parachute, a blooming flower  - 'wake to the wings of roses' -  and start a fire there. 

Anne Sexton - shocking and stunning, punchy and powerful as always. 

Courage - Anne Sexton
It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy
and made you into an alien,
you drank their acid
and concealed it.

if you faced the death of bombs and bullets
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
comfort your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out. 


  1. 'love as simple as shaving soap...'

    Ahhh, I love it when a poet comes up with something like that - simple and ingenious and lovely.

    Anne Sexton is one of my favourite writers - I love how she uses language. She's so intimate and glorious and precise. Have you ever read her collected letters? A definite recommendation from me if you haven't already.

  2. Hi Cheryl, yes, her language is striking to say the least - fearless and fierce and fresh! I find it very inspiring. No, I haven't read the letters, sounds interesting, must look into those... I've just recently discovered her! Are there any of her collections you would recommend as a must-read? Or just all of them? lol

    PS/ I got your last few comments on poems, but they didn't appear here (the Bermuda triangle syndrome again!) But thanks! :)


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