Christmas Eve Poem by Anne Sexton

Christmas Eve

Rating: 3.0


Oh sharp diamond, my mother!
I could not count the cost
of all your faces, your moods-
that present that I lost.
Sweet girl, my deathbed,
my jewel-fingered lady,
your portrait flickered all night
by the bulbs of the tree.

Your face as calm as the moon
over a mannered sea,
presided at the family reunion,
the twelve grandchildren
you used to wear on your wrist,
a three-months-old baby,
a fat check you never wrote,
the red-haired toddler who danced the twist,
your aging daughters, each one a wife,
each one talking to the family cook,
each one avoiding your portrait,
each one aping your life.

Later, after the party,
after the house went to bed,
I sat up drinking the Christmas brandy,
watching your picture,
letting the tree move in and out of focus.
The bulbs vibrated.
They were a halo over your forehead.
Then they were a beehive,
blue, yellow, green, red;
each with its own juice, each hot and alive
stinging your face. But you did not move.
I continued to watch, forcing myself,
waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.

I wanted your eyes, like the shadows
of two small birds, to change.
But they did not age.
The smile that gathered me in, all wit,
all charm, was invincible.
Hour after hour I looked at your face
but I could not pull the roots out of it.
Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck,
your badly painted flesh-pink skin.
You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.
Then I thought of your body
as one thinks of murder-

Then I said Mary-
Mary, Mary, forgive me
and then I touched a present for the child,
the last I bred before your death;
and then I touched my breast
and then I touched the floor
and then my breast again as if,
somehow, it were one of yours.

COMMENTS OF THE POEM
John Richter 02 December 2014

Inspired? Can you expand on that? What does this poem mean to you? How does it inspire you? The woman presents a schism here (to me.) A variant of different moods, temperament, feelings toward her mother - who we find has passed by this time - and then inspired herself by the child last born before her mother's death.... From anger, resentment, hatred and even murder, to regret, guilt, and corporal love of her mother - the soothing touch that only a mother's body can present.... An incredibly lovely - surreal poem.

7 5 Reply
Amy Marie 26 December 2010

I love the way this poem fills my senses. I love Christmas eve evenings too :)

7 4 Reply
Dawn Fuzan 28 April 2014

I am inspired by this poem , its interesting

4 5 Reply
Seamus O Brian 26 December 2016

The first three lines present the parameters of discussion, the infinite complexity of a human being, especially in the context of the many folds and textures of a mother-daughter relationship. So much of a life to contemplate in its fullness, especially in the face of its loss. How many memories are involved? How many different emotions? Sweeping, yet somewhat subtle in its power. But powerful, nonetheless.

4 3 Reply
Jerry Wells 19 December 2017

CHRISTMAS WAS NOT GIVEN TO US BY GOD. CHRISTMAS IN DECEMBER IS COLD WHERE CHRIST WAS BOEN. IT WAS A HOT NIGHT WHERE CHIRST WAS IT. CHRIST WAS NOT BORN IN DECEMBER BECAUSE IT IS COLD IN DECEMBER. THE THREE WISE MAN WOULD HAVE NOT CAME THAT LONG WAS TO SEE CHRISTIF IT COLD. NOW DON’T YOU SEE THAT CHRISTMAS IS NOT RIGHT ARE NOT TRUE TO BE IN DECEMBER

1 3 Reply
Mahtab Bangalee 25 December 2019

I wanted your eyes, like the shadows of two small birds, to change. But they did not age. The smile that gathered me in, all wit, all charm, was invincible....//// beautiful poem penned on Christmas Eve

1 0 Reply

.....and then my breast again as if, somehow, it were one of yours. Yearning for a mother's love!

1 0 Reply
Sylvia Frances Chan 25 December 2019

A most beautiful poem from the hand of Anne Sexton, but full of sadness and melancholy. I am very much touched by reading this saddest epistle.Now I know why she committed suicide. An excellent choice being chosen as The Modern Poem Of The Day.CONGRATULATIONS to the family of the late Anne Sexton. May she R.I.P.

1 0 Reply
Peter Florian 21 December 2018

scary- and I'm supposed to write 20 characters, though the poem don't need it.

1 0 Reply
Bulent Karaalioglu 10 December 2018

I understand your pain as someone who loses her mother. I am looking for my mother on special occasions. All the mother poems are beautiful

1 3 Reply
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Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton

Newton, Massachusetts
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