It’s in the heart of the grape
where that smile lies.
It’s in the good-bye-bow in the hair
where that smile lies.
It’s in the clerical collar of the dress
where that smile lies.
What smile?
The smile of my seventh year,
caught here in the painted photograph.

It’s peeling now, age has got it,
a kind of cancer of the background
and also in the assorted features.
It’s like a rotten flag
or a vegetable from the refrigerator,
pocked with mold.
I am aging without sound,
into darkness, darkness.

who are you?

I open the vein
and my blood rings like roller skates.
I open the mouth
and my teeth are an angry army.
I open the eyes
and they go sick like dogs
with what they have seen.
I open the hair
and it falls apart like dust balls.
I open the dress
and I see a child bent on a toilet seat.
I crouch there, sitting dumbly
pushing the enemas out like ice cream,
letting the whole brown world
turn into sweets.

who are you?

Merely a kid keeping alive.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem Baby Picture


  1. David J. Kunz says:

    How many of us adults feel ourselves as simply kids surviving? (I for one raise my hand.) Anne touches upon a universal theme there, illness or no illness.

  2. Elaine Hartigan says:

    In articulating the dumbing down of children, Anne Sexton’s poem introduces the polar opposites of growth and decay in Baby Picture. Smiles lie, kids keep themselves alive and Yeat’s notion ‘the centre cannot hold’ are echoed in the lines ‘it falls apart like dust balls’. The startling line ‘sitting dumbly pushing the enemas out like ice cream’ is absolutely unbearable and yet so many children have been given sweeties to help them feel better… afterwards. Like so many of Sexton’s poems, this one also delivers another emotional grenade!

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