Oh, love, why do we argue like this?
I am tired of all your pious talk.
Also, I am tired of all the dead.
They refuse to listen,
so leave them alone.
Take your foot out of the graveyard,
they are busy being dead.

Everyone was always to blame:
the last empty fifth of booze,
the rusty nails and chicken feathers
that stuck in the mud on the back doorstep,
the worms that lived under the cat’s ear
and the thin-lipped preacher
who refused to call
except once on a flea-ridden day
when he came scuffing in through the yard
looking for a scapegoat.
I hid in the kitchen under the ragbag.

I refuse to remember the dead.
And the dead are bored with the whole thing.
But you — you go ahead,
go on, go on back down
into the graveyard,
lie down where you think their faces are;
talk back to your old bad dreams.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem A Curse Against Elegies


  1. Sheree says:

    This poem is about how people are forever writing about the dead and reminding people about all the losses in the world. Whats a bit odd about this poem is that Anne is basically complaining about elegies but throught out her poet career, she has written many many elegies. Although i enjoyed this poem immensely, i don’t see the point of complaining if alot of her poet career has been elegies.

  2. yann rolland says:

    such a beautiful poem

  3. John says:

    Anne’s ‘curse’ here is wonderful is wonderful. For me though, this is the business:
    Anne Sexton – surely an ironic name for a bellringer – had a troubled life:
    alcholism, drug dependency, madness, sexual abuse, you name it. She
    committed suicide in 1974 at I’m not sure what age but probably in her early
    forties. One of the stream of shrinks who ‘treated’ her over the years, Dr
    Martin T Orne, who taped his consultations with her and used them in a kind
    of biography, encouraged her to write down her feelings. He justified his
    use of the tapes because, he said, they show “how a gifted person who was
    nowhere could, with some help, becomes an outstanding poet”. This leaves me

    Ringing The Bells

    And this is the way they ring
    the bells in Bedlam
    and this is the bell-lady
    who comes each Tuesday morning
    to give us a music lesson
    and because the attendants make you go
    and because we mind by instinct,
    like bees caught in the wrong hive,
    we are the circle of the crazy ladies
    who sit in the lounge of the mental house
    and smile at the smiling woman
    who passes us each a bell,
    who points at my hand
    that holds my bell, E flat,
    and this is the grey dress next to me
    who grumbles as if it were special
    to be old, to be old,
    and this is the small hunched squirrel girl
    on the other side of me
    who picks at the hairs over her lip,
    who picks at the hairs over her lip all day,
    and this is how the bells really sound,
    as untroubled and clean
    as a workable kitchen,
    and this is always my bell responding
    to my hand that responds to the lady
    who points at me, E flat;
    and although we are no better for it,
    they tell you to go. And you do.

    From To Bedlam And Part Way Back
    (Houghton Mufflin 1960; OUP 1964)

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