The House - Poem by Anne Sexton
the same bad dream goes on.
Like some gigantic German toy
the house has been rebuilt
upon its kelly-green lawn.
The same dreadful set,
the same family of orange and pink faces
carved and dressed up like puppets
who wait for their jaws to open and shut.
it's all the same. We're at war.
They've rationed the gas for all three cars.
The Lincoln Continental breathes in its stall,
a hopped up greyhound waiting to be sprung.
The Irish boy
who dated her
(lace curtain Irish, her mother said)
urges her through the lead-colored garages
to feel the patent-leather fenders
and peek at the mileage.
All that money!
and kisses too.
Kisses that stick in the mouth
like the vinegar candy she used to pull
with her buttery fingers, pull
until it was white like a dog's bone,
white, thick and impossible to chew.
an exact likeness,
his face bloated and pink
with black market scotch,
sits out his monthly bender
in his custom-made pajamas
and shouts, his tongue as quick as galloping horses,
shouts into the long distance telephone call.
His mouth is as wide as his kiss.
with just the right gesture,
kicks her shoes off,
but is made all wrong,
impossibly frumpy as she sits there
in her alabaster dressing room
sorting her diamonds like a bank teller
to see if they add up.
as thin as a pencil stick,
holds dinner as usual,
rubs her angry knuckles over the porcelain sink
and grumbles at the gun-shy bird dog.
She knows something is going on.
She pricks a baked potato.
older than all the crooked women
The Brothers Grimm,
leans by a gooseneck lamp in her second floor suite,
turns up her earphone to eavesdrop
and continues to knit,
her needles working like kitchen shears
and her breasts blown out like two
a quick-eyed Filipino,
slinks by like a Japanese spy
from French Provincial room
to French Provincial room,
emptying the ash trays and plumping up
the down upholstery.
His jacket shines, old shiny black,
a wise undertaker.
The milkman walks in his cartoon
every other day in the snoozy dawn,
rattling his bottles like a piggy bank.
And gardeners come, six at a time,
pulling petunias and hairy angel bells
up through the mulch.
This one again, made vaguely and cruelly,
one eye green and one eye blue,
has the only major walk-on so far,
has walked from her afternoon date
past the waiting baked potatoes,
past the flashing back of the Japanese spy,
up the cotton batten stairs,
past the clicking and unclicking of the earphones,
turns here at the hall
by the diamonds that she'll never earn
and the bender that she kissed last night
among thick set stars, the floating bed
and the strange white key…
up like a skein of yarn,
up another flight into the penthouse,
to slam the door on all the years
she'll have to live through…
the sailor who she won't with,
the boys who will walk on
from Andover, Exeter and St. Marks,
the boys who will walk off with pale unlined faces,
to slam the door on all the days she'll stay the same
and never ask why and never think who to ask,
to slam the door and rip off her orange blouse.
Father, father, I wish I were dead.
she'll dream she's dead
or else she'll dream she's back.
All day long the house sits
larger than Russia
gleaming like a cured hide in the sun.
All day long the machine waits: rooms,
stairs, carpets, furniture, people -
those people who stand at the open windows like objects
waiting to topple.
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