Anne Sexton

(9 November 1928 – 4 October 1974 / Newton, Massachusetts)

45 Mercy Street - Poem by Anne Sexton

In my dream,
drilling into the marrow
of my entire bone,
my real dream,
I'm walking up and down Beacon Hill
searching for a street sign -
namely MERCY STREET.
Not there.

I try the Back Bay.
Not there.
Not there.
And yet I know the number.
45 Mercy Street.
I know the stained-glass window
of the foyer,
the three flights of the house
with its parquet floors.
I know the furniture and
mother, grandmother, great-grandmother,
the servants.
I know the cupboard of Spode
the boat of ice, solid silver,
where the butter sits in neat squares
like strange giant's teeth
on the big mahogany table.
I know it well.
Not there.

Where did you go?
45 Mercy Street,
with great-grandmother
kneeling in her whale-bone corset
and praying gently but fiercely
to the wash basin,
at five A.M.
at noon
dozing in her wiggy rocker,
grandfather taking a nap in the pantry,
grandmother pushing the bell for the downstairs maid,
and Nana rocking Mother with an oversized flower
on her forehead to cover the curl
of when she was good and when she was...
And where she was begat
and in a generation
the third she will beget,
me,
with the stranger's seed blooming
into the flower called Horrid.

I walk in a yellow dress
and a white pocketbook stuffed with cigarettes,
enough pills, my wallet, my keys,
and being twenty-eight, or is it forty-five?
I walk. I walk.
I hold matches at street signs
for it is dark,
as dark as the leathery dead
and I have lost my green Ford,
my house in the suburbs,
two little kids
sucked up like pollen by the bee in me
and a husband
who has wiped off his eyes
in order not to see my inside out
and I am walking and looking
and this is no dream
just my oily life
where the people are alibis
and the street is unfindable for an
entire lifetime.

Pull the shades down -
I don't care!
Bolt the door, mercy,
erase the number,
rip down the street sign,
what can it matter,
what can it matter to this cheapskate
who wants to own the past
that went out on a dead ship
and left me only with paper?

Not there.

I open my pocketbook,
as women do,
and fish swim back and forth
between the dollars and the lipstick.
I pick them out,
one by one
and throw them at the street signs,
and shoot my pocketbook
into the Charles River.
Next I pull the dream off
and slam into the cement wall
of the clumsy calendar
I live in,
my life,
and its hauled up
notebooks.


Comments about 45 Mercy Street by Anne Sexton

  • Nicole Settimi (11/20/2018 5:50:00 AM)


    'where the butter sits in neat squares
    like strange giant's teeth
    on the big mahogany table. '

    - Adore these three lines especially.
    (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Nicole Settimi (11/20/2018 5:48:00 AM)


    Mercy is childhood. Mercy is the safety of illusion. Mercy is anything and everything but what her adulthood is | has become | will be- as far as she can see, futuristically. (Report) Reply

  • (6/17/2018 5:50:00 PM)


    I pull the dream off and slam into the cement wall... Splat. (Report) Reply

  • Dr.tony Brahmin (4/21/2018 7:46:00 AM)


    this is no dream
    just my oily life
    where the people are alibis
    and the street is unfindable for an
    entire lifetime. very nice potrayal of a l ife, thinking and of a writer.......thanku. tony
    (Report) Reply

  • (1/7/2018 9:41:00 AM)


    Courage, plain courage. (Report) Reply

  • R. Lee Metheny (8/3/2017 8:15:00 PM)


    The poet relentlessly desires to return home, when in reality that home is nothing more than a figment of his/her imagination or base ideology. (Report) Reply

  • Sylvaonyema Uba (2/22/2017 5:49:00 PM)


    I know the stained- glass window
    Of the foyer.
    (Report) Reply

  • Rajnish Manga (7/27/2016 1:40:00 AM)


    What a bewitching imagery and a gripping narrative emanating from a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Great poem by all means. Thanks you '45 Mercy Street by Anne Sexton'. (Report) Reply

  • Savin (2/12/2016 9:57:00 AM)


    A very good poem. I like it.
    Where did you go?
    45 Mercy Street,
    with great-grandmother
    kneeling in her whale-bone corset
    and praying gently but fiercely
    to the wash basin,
    at five A.M.
    Thanks for sharing.
    (Report) Reply

  • (8/29/2015 6:49:00 PM)


    .....an incredible write, this poem reads like she was sucked into
    a life she wasn't happy with ★
    (Report) Reply

  • Terry Craddock (3/24/2015 7:33:00 PM)


    Wow exceptional poem 45 Mercy Street,45 Jump Street or 45 Nightmare on Mercy Street? a poem to take note of (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (3/24/2015 6:38:00 PM)


    45 Mercy Street. Isn't that right next to the Hotel California and also the Bates Motel? Anyway, Anne Sexton was a terrific writer, no question about that. (Report) Reply

  • (3/24/2015 10:11:00 AM)


    A poem in humanely spirit and looking for mercy. likes. (Report) Reply

  • (3/24/2015 7:05:00 AM)


    Prolific writer, such a troubled mind... children sucked up into me - like pollen into a bee... husband wipes his eyes so he won't see my inside out... Fish swim back and forth in the purse? Swedish Fish candies? I live in my life and its hauled up notebooks. - I have been in love with Anne Sexton since the first time I saw this poem. What a lovely mind. Such a dismal tragedy for we who remain. (Report) Reply

  • (4/25/2014 7:43:00 PM)


    Still looking for mercy in a mind that has none for myself. Thank you anne for this one. (Report) Reply

  • (11/24/2013 7:36:00 PM)


    A ground breaking poem. Nothing I know quite like it. Images and rhythm so crisp. And the final focus like a rife shot through the heart. A hard hard truth. few wish to see. not even me! ! (Report) Reply

  • Samanthia Moore (8/1/2013 1:48:00 PM)


    Is my all time favorite poet, i wish she were still alive doing what she did best. She will forever be number one on my list. (Report) Reply

  • (4/23/2009 12:28:00 PM)


    Ann was a brilliant poet, the command of the written word.....breathtaking

    Oh Ann I wish you were still here.
    (Report) Reply

  • (3/21/2009 1:19:00 PM)


    Anne used some wonderful analogies, here. I wish I had written this! (Report) Reply

  • (2/28/2009 4:36:00 PM)


    Captivating. Moving. Found out about her work through the Peter Gabriel song 'Mercy Street.' We are all looking for the place. We all know what it looks like. Will any of us ever find it, though?


    Brought tears to my eyes...
    (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Poem Edited: Wednesday, August 11, 2010


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