Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Music Swims Back to Me

          Anyone who knows me very well knows that my favorite poet is Anne Sexton. An odd choice, yes. Why would a 24 year old man read the poems of a depressed woman? The answer to that relates back to my last post but either way I connect to her poetry. I think everyone can connect to her poetry in ways that they are not aware of. For example, the following:

Music Swims Back To Me

Wait Mister. Which way is home?
They turned the light out
and the dark is moving in the corner.
There are no sign posts in this room,
four ladies, over eighty,
in diapers every one of them.
La la la, Oh music swims back to me
and I can feel the tune they played
the night they left me
in this private institution on a hill.

Imagine it. A radio playing
and everyone here was crazy.
I liked it and danced in a circle.
Music pours over the sense
and in a funny way
music sees more than I.
I mean it remembers better;
remembers the first night here.
It was the strangled cold of November;
even the stars were strapped in the sky
and that moon too bright
forking through the bars to stick me
with a singing in the head.
I have forgotten all the rest.

They lock me in this chair at eight a.m.
and there are no signs to tell the way,
just the radio beating to itself
and the song that remembers
more than I. Oh, la la la,
this music swims back to me.
The night I came I danced a circle
and was not afraid.

          Breathtaking is the only word that describes this poem to me. I have tried writing papers on this poem, I have tried explicating this poem, I have tried doing justice to this poem, and nothing I do can express what Sexton has written. Now to the poetry-illiterate this poem is just about a crazy person, and they would be right. Billy Collins teaches us that poems are poems for poems sake, there doesn't have to be a tie-it-to-the-chair-beat-a-confession-out-of-it meaning. Ah, but the poetry of this poem doesn't come from its meaning. I have never been strapped to a chair so now can I relate directly with this poem? I relate to the language, to the emotion, to the idea of being trapped in a place that was once beautiful and freeing only to come to realize that same place was a prison. The music is her memory; it is her freedom, it represents all those things that she has lost; the sign post pointing the way to her previous self, that wasn't afraid.
          Anne Sexton's poetry conveys so many emotions in such a little space that its like being lost. I feel sorrow for this lady, I feel resentment for the people who trap her, I feel hope for the return on the music, I feel happy because she danced, I feel lost because she is lost, I feel found because I am not trapped, I feel pain because of the moon, I feel remorse for the four ladies, I feel cold because of the strangled November night, I feel and that is the beauty behind this and all of her poems. I can feel those emotions through her language.

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