Thursday, December 6, 2012

Poem: "The Truth the Dead Know"

"The Truth the Dead Know"
By: Anne Sexton

     For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
     and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone. 

Anne Sexton Reading "The Truth The Death Know"

Mimi Isaac

English 242
Ms. Wentworth
December 10, 2012

Anne Sexton Poetry Analysis

            Anne Sexton suffered from depression through her childhood and adulthood. Sexton was medically diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of her first daughter. Her poem titled “The Truth the Dead Know” is a confessional elegy of her parent’s death. The poem is composed of four stanzas with four lines each with end rhyme. This poem expressed her sadness in dealing with the death of her loved ones. 

            The caption before the poem reads “For My Mother, Born March 1902, Died March 1959 and My Father, Born February 1900, Died June 1959.” This sets the background for the poem and gives the reader a direction on how to read it. Sexton’s mother passed away from cancer and her father passed away from a lifelong fight against alcoholism. Sexton had a hard time dealing with the two deaths because they only happened three months apart. It is tough enough to deal with one death but two in a year is much harder because there is not enough time to mourn the first one.

            The first word of the poem is “Gone” which is a powerful way of saying that somebody has passed away (1). This shows a great contrast between life and death. The line continues “I say and walk from church, refusing the stiff procession to the grave” (2-3). Sexton’s refusal to go to the grave showed that she had a hard time admitting that somebody close to her had passed away. Seeing the grave would make everything too real. Instead, she let “the dead ride alone in the hearse” because she was “tired of being brave” (3-4). Once again, this shows the distance between the living and the dead. The poem also states that it is June, so the reader can convey that this is her father’s funeral.

            The second stanza explains how Sexton tried to deal with the pain. Instead of attending the funeral, Sexton drives to the Cape where the “sun gutters from the sky” and where the “sea swings in like an iron gate” (6-7). It shows how nature is unconcerned with death. There is a sense that the world is moving on with the cycle of life. The line continues with “we touch. In another country people die” (8). This line shows that Sexton is actually still close and has a connection with her dead parents.
            The third stanza continues to stress that for Sexton dead people do not move far way because through nature she still has a strong connection to them. In the life after death “No one's alone. Men kill for this, or for as much” (11-12). This showed that Sexton felt lonely among the living. It also shows that Sexton might feel more connected with the dead because she can still touch them after they have passed away. Sexton references the stone sea and stone boats because they show a connection to her cold emotions towards the death of her parents. The dead are just shoeless corpses in a coffin. The last line reads “They refuse to be blessed…” which shows just how senseless dead people are (15-16). Also, the fact that not even religion can answer for the pain she feels.
            Sexton suffered from severe depression throughout her life. Much of her unhappiness accumulated from her childhood to adulthood. She was so emotionally and spiritually numb that in a sense she became dead like her parents. In the poem, Sexton could even enter their world and touch her mother and father after their death. This comes to show that she was severely depressed and could never move on from their death. Since nothing could bring the dead back, in a way she slowly went to them, hence the title “The Truth the Dead Know.” In the life of Anne Sexton there was more of a connection between her and the dead. 

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