The Break - Poem by Anne Sexton
It was also my violent heart that broke,
falling down the front hall stairs.
It was also a message I never spoke,
calling, riser after riser, who cares
about you, who cares, splintering up
the hip that was merely made of crystal,
the post of it and also the cup.
I exploded in the hallway like a pistol.
So I fell apart. So I came all undone.
Yes. I was like a box of dog bones.
But now they've wrapped me in like a nun.
Burst like firecrackers! Held like stones!
What a feat sailing queerly like Icarus
until the tempest undid me and I broke.
The ambulance drivers made such a fuss.
But when I cried, 'Wait for my courage!' they smoked
and then they placed me, tied me up on their plate,
and wheeled me out to their coffin, my nest.
Slowly the siren slowly the hearse, sedate
as a dowager. At the E. W. they cut off my dress.
I cried, 'Oh Jesus, help me! Oh Jesus Christ!'
and the nurse replied, 'Wrong name. My name
is Barbara,' and hung me in an odd device,
a buck's extension and a Balkan overhead frame.
The orthopedic man declared,
'You'll be down for a year.' His scoop. His news.
He opened the skin. He scraped. He pared
and drilled through bone for his four-inch screws.
That takes brute strength like pushing a cow
up hill. I tell you, it takes skill
and bedside charm and all that know how.
The body is a damn hard thing to kill.
But please don't touch or jiggle my bed.
I'm Ethan Frome's wife. I'll move when I'm able.
The T. V. hangs from the wall like a moose head.
I hide a pint of bourbon in my bedside table.
A bird full of bones, now I'm held by a sand bag.
The fracture was twice. The fracture was double.
The days are horizontal. The days are a drag.
All of the skeleton in me is in trouble.
Across the hall is the bedpan station.
The urine and stools pass hourly by my head
in silver bowls. They flush in unison
in the autoclave. My one dozen roses are dead.
The have ceased to menstruate. They hang
there like little dried up blood clots.
And the heart too, that cripple, how it sang
once. How it thought it could call the shots!
Understand what happened the day I fell.
My heart had stammered and hungered at
a marriage feast until the angel of hell
turned me into the punisher, the acrobat.
My bones are loose as clothespins,
as abandoned as dolls in a toy shop
and my heart, old hunger motor, with its sins
revved up like an engine that would not stop.
And now I spend all day taking care
of my body, that baby. Its cargo is scarred.
I anoint the bedpan. I brush my hair,
waiting in the pain machine for my bones to get hard,
for the soft, soft bones that were laid apart
and were screwed together. They will knit.
And the other corpse, the fractured heart,
I feed it piecemeal, little chalice. I'm good to it.
Yet lie a fire alarm it waits to be known.
It is wired. In it many colors are stored.
While my body's in prison, heart cells alone
have multiplied. My bones are merely bored
with all this waiting around. But the heart,
this child of myself that resides in the flesh,
this ultimate signature of the me, the start
of my blindness and sleep, builds a death crèche.
The figures are placed at the grave of my bones.
All figures knowing it is the other death
they came for. Each figure standing alone.
The heart burst with love and lost its breath.
This little town, this little country is real
and thus it is so of the post and the cup
and thus of the violent heart. The zeal
of my house doth eat me up.
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