45 Mercy Street Poem by Anne Sexton

45 Mercy Street

Rating: 3.7


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 OF THE POEM
Charles Goddard 28 February 2009

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...

43 13 Reply
Michael Gale 12 September 2006

I cannot fathom that no one has read or commented on Anne Sexton's works. She was a giantess of poetic talent of confessional poetry. It seems that many of confessional poets suffer severely with depression and usually or already have commited suicide or is sure to take one's own life. Fish in a pocketbook is very imaginative and even more so to take them out and throw them at her street sign which probably symbolizes her life and depressed wish to end her life as living on this earth. Great poem-i give it a ten. God bless all poets-MJG.

33 14 Reply
Joe Montana 26 January 2018

Very strong

0 0 Reply
Annie Rich 23 April 2009

Ann was a brilliant poet, the command of the written word.....breathtaking Oh Ann I wish you were still here.

32 14 Reply
Mel Bohrer 21 March 2009

Anne used some wonderful analogies, here. I wish I had written this!

28 14 Reply
Sylvia Frances Chan 31 August 2021

Great poem of the great North American Poetess!

0 0 Reply
Meshach EJ 31 August 2021

Scintillating ????

0 0 Reply
Sylvia Frances Chan 30 August 2021

Most deserving Modern Poem Of The Day.5 Stars full for this sad poem by the famous great Poetess Anne Sexton

0 0 Reply
Christopher Truman 02 October 2020

One of the worst poems ever written, Disorganised garbage

2 17 Reply
Shaun Cronick 27 May 2020

Tragedy was an under statement for such a brilliant poetess and likewise a poor woman who tragically ended her own life.

2 0 Reply
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Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton

Newton, Massachusetts
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