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Anne Sexton - For The Year Of The Insane

a prayer

O Mary, fragile mother, 
hear me, hear me now 
although I do not know your words. 
The black rosary with its silver Christ 
lies unblessed in my hand 
for I am the unbeliever. 
Each bead is round and hard between my fingers, 
a small black angel. 
O Mary, permit me this grace, 
this crossing over, 
although I am ugly, 
submerged in my own past 
and my own madness. 
Although there are chairs 
I lie on the floor. 
Only my hands are alive, 
touching beads. 
Word for word, I stumble. 
A beginner, I feel your mouth touch mine. 

I count beads as waves, 
hammering in upon me. 
I am ill at their numbers, 
sick, sick in the summer heat 
and the window above me 
is my only listener, my awkward being. 
She is a large taker, a soother. 
The giver of breath 
she murmurs, 
exhaling her wide lung like an enormous fish. 

Closer and closer 
comes the hour of my death 
as I rearrange my face, grow back, 
grow undeveloped and straight-haired. 
All this is death. 
In the mind there is a thin alley called death 
and I move through it as 
through water. 
My body is useless. 
It lies, curled like a dog on the carpet. 
It has given up. 
There are no words here except the half-learned, 
the Hail Mary and the full of grace. 
Now I have entered the year without words. 
I note the queer entrance and the exact voltage. 
Without words they exist. 
Without words on my touch bread 
and be handed bread 
and make no sound. 

O Mary, tender physician, 
come with powders and herbs 
for I am in the center. 
It is very small and the air is gray 
as in a steam house. 
I am handed wine as a child is handed milk. 
It is presented in a delicate glass 
with a round bowl and a thin lip. 
The wine itself is pitch-colored, musty and secret. 
The glass rises in its own toward my mouth 
and I notice this and understand this 
only because it has happened. 

I have this fear of coughing 
but I do not speak, 
a fear of rain, a fear of the horseman 
who comes riding into my mouth. 
The glass tilts in on its own 
and I amon fire. 
I see two thin streaks burn down my chin. 
I see myself as one would see another. 
I have been cut int two. 

O Mary, open your eyelids. 
I am in the domain of silence, 
the kingdom of the crazy and the sleeper. 
There is blood here. 
and I haven't eaten it. 
O mother of the womb, 
did I come for blood alone? 
O little mother, 
I am in my own mind. 
I am locked in the wrong house.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 11295 times | Comments and analysis of For The Year Of The Insane by Anne Sexton Comments (2)

For The Year Of The Insane - Comments and Information

Poet: Anne Sexton
Poem: For The Year Of The Insane
Poem of the Day: Jun 12 2012

Comment 2 of 2, added on January 18th, 2013 at 6:12 AM.

That isginht would have saved us a lot of effort early on.

Azia from Saint Vincent and the Grenadin
Comment 1 of 2, added on September 19th, 2005 at 1:30 PM.

i thought your poem was interesting and i liked the poetic devices used, however i am not sure i grasped the full context or idea. Could you please fill me in?

Jred from United States

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