Tommy is three and when he’s bad
his mother dances with him.
She puts on the record,
“Red Roses for a Blue Lady”
and throws him across the room.
Mind you,
she never laid a hand on him.
He gets red roses in different places,
the head, that time he was as sleepy as a river,
the back, that time he was a broken scarecrow,
the arm like a diamond had bitten it,
the leg, twisted like a licorice stick,
all the dance they did together,
Blue Lady and Tommy.
You fell, she said, just remember you fell.
I fell, is all he told the doctors
in the big hospital. A nice lady came
and asked him questions but because
he didn’t want to be sent away he said, I fell.
He never said anything else although he could talk fine.
He never told about the music
or how she’d sing and shout
holding him up and throwing him.

He pretends he is her ball.
He tries to fold up and bounce
but he squashes like fruit.
For he loves Blue Lady and the spots
of red roses he gives her

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem Red Roses


  1. dennis harrington says:

    the final line of this is “red red roses”

  2. danny says:

    I am a Gcse student and we are doiing this peom in english at the moment and it is for course work we have read into it alot and i can tell any one who is interested that Ann Saxton abused her own children when her husband was away and also that she commited suicide ater the 3rd or 4th attempt
    P.S and one who is interested in these type of poems look up Seamus Heaney “Bye Chil”

  3. Jolyn says:

    I personally thought that the symbolism of the rose (full of thorns) and the welts that the child gets from the thrashing were brought across. I think the music that is played is used to prevent neighbors from hearing the cries of the child. It also show how violent the mother thrashes the child over minor mistakes that children are prone to make.
    Also it shows how sometimes societies legal safety nets are unable to protect everyone.
    (ps. if anyone has any insightful comment on Sylvia Plath’s Ariel pls tell me.)

  4. Stephanie Ryan says:

    Is the author’s brother Tommy? I hope the author did not experience this personally. I don’t like this poem, it is too dark and left me feeling bad. I am sorry I read it.

  5. Echo See says:

    I think it’s interesting how so many people can see so many different things in this poem. I noticed two major parts of it…1) It’s about the mother’s fear of either the child being taken or herself being caught, and 2) it’s also about the child’s undying love for his mother. Some people argue with me, however I will point out that this is only one interpretation of it. (Yes, I am a college student in a poetry class.) I might have read too far into the poem, or pulled too much from my own experiance in an abusive household, but i know that the undying love for a parent cannot be tarnished by somthing like abuse or neglect. No one here so far has mentioned that, so I thought I would.
    ~Echo See

  6. Amy says:

    This poem is beautiful, but so sad… it makes me feel sick to think someone could do that to an innocent child…

  7. Rocio Cervantes says:

    I really like this poem. One of the many abuse poems that Ann Sexton wrote.

  8. jess says:

    This poem is very touching, i’m only 13 and i heard this poem at school and i just had to get myself a copy for on my wall and in my scrapbook!

  9. Dame Dana says:

    Red Roses seem to indicate either cigarette burns or whippings from a belt. Lady Blue seems to indicate that the person was always depressed or that she left blue bruises on the body. How a son loved his mother so…he could not turn her in to the authorities for she was his mom

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