There will be mud on the carpet tonight
and blood in the gravy as well.
The wifebeater is out,
the childbeater is out
eating soil and drinking bullets from a cup.
He strides bback and forth
in front of my study window
chewing little red pieces of my heart.
His eyes flash like a birthday cake
and he makes bread out of rock.
Yesterday he was walking
like a man in the world.
He was upright and conservative
but somehow evasive, somehow contagious.
Yesterday he built me a country
and laid out a shadow where I could sleep
but today a coffin for the madonna and child,
today two women in baby clothes will be hamburg.
With a tongue like a razor he will kiss,
the mother, the child,
and we three will color the stars black
in memory of his mother
who kept him chained to the food tree
or turned him on and off like a water faucet
and made women through all these hazy years
the enemy with a heart of lies.
Tonight all the red dogs lie down in fear
and the wife and daughter knit into each other
until they are killed.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem The Wifebeater


  1. cynthia says:

    it may be sad, but it’s very much true…we are living in a sad, depressing world…no one really truly cares for anyone else…everyone is fending for themselves….and while that is what makes the poem so sad…that is also what makes it so true…….

  2. ramona says:

    As I scanned the list of poems by Sexton, this one jumped out immediate and I was driven to read it. Not out of curiosity, but wondering if there was a way to pen this factual event in meter, rhyme or refrain. What I discovered is that she truly captured the essence of abuse…”Yesterday he was walking
    like a man in the world. He was upright and conservative but somehow evasive, somehow contagious.” These ordinary, upstanding, law-abiding men morph into someone…or something…that breeds destruction behind closed doors. I’m glad that I read it, can remember the pain and can be eternally grateful for rising as the Phoenix from the ashes.

  3. rashelle says:

    that is such an awsome poem! i am so intreasted in reading about this kind of stuff it breaks my heart!

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