“You speak to me of narcissism but I reply that it is
a matter of my life” – Artaud

“At this time let me somehow bequeath all the leftovers
to my daughters and their daughters” – Anonymous

Better,
despite the worms talking to
the mare’s hoof in the field;
better,
despite the season of young girls
dropping their blood;
better somehow
to drop myself quickly
into an old room.
Better (someone said)
not to be born
and far better
not to be born twice
at thirteen
where the boardinghouse,
each year a bedroom,
caught fire.

Dear friend,
I will have to sink with hundreds of others
on a dumbwaiter into hell.
I will be a light thing.
I will enter death
like someone’s lost optical lens.
Life is half enlarged.
The fish and owls are fierce today.
Life tilts backward and forward.
Even the wasps cannot find my eyes.

Yes,
eyes that were immediate once.
Eyes that have been truly awake,
eyes that told the whole story-
poor dumb animals.
Eyes that were pierced,
little nail heads,
light blue gunshots.

And once with
a mouth like a cup,
clay colored or blood colored,
open like the breakwater
for the lost ocean
and open like the noose
for the first head.

Once upon a time
my hunger was for Jesus.
O my hunger! My hunger!
Before he grew old
he rode calmly into Jerusalem
in search of death.

This time
I certainly
do not ask for understanding
and yet I hope everyone else
will turn their heads when an unrehearsed fish jumps
on the surface of Echo Lake;
when moonlight,
its bass note turned up loud,
hurts some building in Boston,
when the truly beautiful lie together.
I think of this, surely,
and would think of it far longer
if I were not… if I were not
at that old fire.

I could admit
that I am only a coward
crying me me me
and not mention the little gnats, the moths,
forced by circumstance
to suck on the electric bulb.
But surely you know that everyone has a death,
his own death,
waiting for him.
So I will go now
without old age or disease,
wildly but accurately,
knowing my best route,
carried by that toy donkey I rode all these years,
never asking, “Where are we going?”
We were riding (if I’d only known)
to this.

Dear friend,
please do not think
that I visualize guitars playing
or my father arching his bone.
I do not even expect my mother’s mouth.
I know that I have died before-
once in November, once in June.
How strange to choose June again,
so concrete with its green breasts and bellies.
Of course guitars will not play!
The snakes will certainly not notice.
New York City will not mind.
At night the bats will beat on the trees,
knowing it all,
seeing what they sensed all day.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem Suicide Note

32 Comments

  1. Serzi says:

    “And far better not to be born twice at thirteen where the boarding house, each year a bed caught fire.” may be insinuating some sexual encounters at the age of thirteen in a boarding house. Perhaps it is somewhat spitting some sarcastic venom in the direction of religion (“born twice”).Whoever posted this poem, THANK YOU. I won a state medal for dramatic interpretation of this back in 2001.

  2. Etain says:

    For those who have the nerve to say that suicidal people think of no one but themselves (I’m talking to you here, Ann Shenae), you obviously have never dealt with suicide or even depression in general.

    The suicidal, the one’s who truly mean to die, go through months and even years of agonizing thought and planning to find a way out that will hurt those around them in the least way possible.

    No, suicide is NOT the best option. For some people however, it is the only option that makes sense.
    And please, don’t bring God into this. That never helped anyone.

  3. Jonny Doe says:

    Does anyone understand why the boarding house caught fire each year?

    It seems like so few of the comments here are about the poem. Someone mentioned the guitars. I think she was sort of joking. Have you ever been in that place where you are crying, but then you start laughing because of how ridiculous it is? I think that’s what the “of course” was about, followed by traditional ridiculous images of heaven. Floating up and having guitars play, or seeing her father and he’s young enough to have good posture. She thinks the sonar of the bats understand it best: she went from moving to inanimate, and that’s all. But I don’t get the boardinghouse line and I wish I did.

  4. ~Barb~ says:

    I love all her poetry, it’s honest and deep filled with a distinct understanding of her own pain and suffering. I suggest those that read and judge without knowledge read more of her work and read her Biography. Suicide is not always the answer, but sometimes the only way for a truly tortured soul to finally rest and ease the life-long never ending pain. A great poem, a great writer, and a sister of tortured souls…

  5. natasha says:

    i am ill from pain
    ill die from shame
    deppresion is lame and it carnt be named
    for who i am and what i will be suicidle is becoming of me
    help is needed help is wanted no one can here my crys of help
    living on a edge thats about to fall
    no ones hereing my crys i call
    no one for me
    thats the way it will be

  6. Ana says:

    Like what was said previously not all poets must be ill to write the way they do. Ok its true that many of them do have expiences that have been hard and depressing that most likely influence their work. But whose to say that a person that is mostly happy can’t write a depressing poem. People don’t just have one emotion, everyone goes through different phases.

  7. Helen says:

    “you don’t have to be ill to be a poet.”

    No, you surely don’t. You just have to be human. Pain, happiness, depression – all human things that we experience. Some, worse than others. What makes a poet is life, langauge, and being human. Not illnesses. It’s the god-given ability to convey thoughts and ideas through metaphores and similies etc. Anne Sexton was truly great. She wasn’t psychologically ill. I think we’re all psyhcologically ill in the eyes of a psychiatrist. Anne Sexton was just painfully human.

  8. Robert says:

    One measure is the number of comments garnered. Is it really her “suicide note” — what if we didn’t know anything about her life. Perhaps she couldn’t help but write it. It is eloquent, and darkly beautiful. Languid. Even sensual. Profound. Very sad. She could not live. She is not giving excuses. She bravely and dangerously wrests her inner turmoil and illness out into the open — not to impress or for praise or any of that (– thus the epigram by Artaud — she did it because she had to — ) such private intimate visceral things so personal she couldn’t know them herself until she put them out for the public to ooo, ahh, gawk and spit upon. Yes, what a sad life. What a loss. What if she had kept it all inside? Even a greater loss.

  9. zoo says:

    right. sure. whatever. you don’t have to be ill to be a poet. i know plenty of miserable assholes out there and they’re not writing poetry. there is no valid point in what todd has said that hasn’t been said before. he’s just waxing it. as for youif you want to blow him then blow him, just don’t think your two cents added on to his-has any value.

  10. Jade says:

    Actually Todd said something very important in my opinion. I don’t know a single poet who is not tortured. I think the illness creates the Poet.

  11. zoo says:

    todd is stupid. you don’t know what you’re talking about. you just like to put things into neat little packages with broad labels. say something original or don’t say anything at all.

  12. Todd says:

    So do we have the Poet because of the illness, or the illness because of the Poet. You can’t show me a Poet that is not troubled or tormented or demonized. Even the Poets that write of trees, bees and dandelions must face the everyday hell we call society. Tortured from the inside, tortured from the outside- take your pick.

  13. Matt says:

    I think that in the last stanza, Anne is trying to make the reader understand that she does not picture the afterlife to be a beautiful place that she can escape to, she does not expect people to feel remorse for her when she is gone. That’s not the point of her “suicide”. I don’t think she really states a point to her suicide, rather she states all the reasons that she ISN’T doing it.

  14. interested reader says:

    well, she did commit suicide…she actually sipped vodka in her red convertible with the garage closed until it filled up with carbon monoxide and she died of asphixiation…im doing a research paper on her for my LA class and although she was very privaleged, her father and mother sexually abused her…her closest familial relationship was to her aunt who was also chronically depressed and died of suicide as well. she had a terrible life…she also was chronically depressed, and suffered from anxiety disorder. She actually ONLY began writing because her therapist told her to…she was also a model…she is now known as one of the greatest confessional poets of her time…but those of you who believe that suicide is NOT the answer…i totally agree. There are support groups for that. =]

  15. caroline says:

    I’ve just read all your comments, and I’ve been thinking this entire time…who are we to judge another person over their oppinion of a poem no one can ever be RIGHT on? hmm… well, personally, I think suicide is not the best choice, and may seem completely irrationalto some while seeming the only way out for others. I have come close to hurting myself, but thoughts of others have always held me back. I think it depends the person and how they are feeling at the moment. The problem with suicide is it’s a mistake one cannot regret later. Well, I’m using mistake in replacement for a better word that i cannot think of. But most things in this world one can regret after they have done them. Suicide is one of the few, or possibly the only, that leaves no room for remorse or second chances.

    I think Anne Sexton in this poem is accepting the consequences of suicide, or maybe she is trying to put them in words. The phrase “Of course guitars will not play!” caught my attention because she seems almost exasperated with the reader, almost as if it is the READER that just simply cannot understand how she feels and what she means. It is a poem that can be interpretted many ways, and though there may be some religious allusions, Sexton simply does not seem to care she about religion or that she would go to hell. These are just my thoughts–everyone else is open to their own interpretations, of suicide AND of the poem. I hope my thoughts maybe gave deeper meaning to the poem, and gave all other readers some more food for thought.

    WOW I wrote an epic….awesome! sorry….I didn’t mean to write an english paper…. haha! Well… I hope everyone else enjoys this and all the other poems as much as I do!

  16. Kelsey/Tom/Arlo says:

    Amanda, you are stupid…you poopy head.

  17. Laura says:

    wow she seems pretty trobled like she had a deep deep secret i think her poems are beautiful i write poems to but never as good as hers

  18. Anna says:

    (In regards to earlier comments) I think that the poems we read will be interpreted through our own brain filters and so we will never really know what Anne means or is trying to convey through her works. However, this forum is about sharing our input and our philosophies on what’s going on in the poem. Since it is also trying to give different perspectives so that we might be able to see other sides of situation, we are all entitled to our own opinions and thoughts. Just because someone makes a comment that doesn’t suit your personal beleifs, doesn’t give you the right to yell and curse and ridicule and judge them. Please keep this in mind while posting. THANK YOU!

    Anyways, I felt as if Anne was trying to convey that she has tried to supress her sucidal thoughts but that she feels she cant hold on anymore and all she wants is that beautiful escape from life.

  19. Ernest Pena says:

    this beautiful poetry is written inside of a mind of a great writter that did commit suicide. This shows an inside look of an actual suicide victim, maybe this might show an understanding to people who do it than a just anoter statistic, and maybe this might help people not commit suicide who are on the verge too. Maybe Anne’s purpose for writting this poem was to help others or maybe she had no comprehension of helping others

  20. natalie says:

    OMG! ann shenae,this is not the room for religious discussion….perhaps you feel you must judge the mentally ill with religious bias because you are questioning your own faith….i think you’re looking for a more conservative,organized,intellectual-lacking place of a flock of sheep like you…THIS SITE’S GETTIN NUTS ON HERE AND’LL GO THE DOGS LESS YOU GUYS STOP ACTING AS IF YOU ARE ILLITERATE AND LACKING CULTURE!

  21. Ann Shenae says:

    I disagree with Leilani, How can you think suicide is ok in this case? Suicide is such a selfish way out. It’s selfish because your thinking just about yourself and not the people who have to deal with the pain when your gone. I myself was suicidal, I had A void in my heart that I could not feel. It was untill I asked Jesus Christ into my heart that he is the one who filled that void in my heart and restored my life. And no, I’m not talking about dead religion I’m talking about having a relationship with the living God. And If that made some of you mad, Well good, because suicide is murder! Yes, murder against your ownself. And the Bible says no murder will inherit the Kingdom of God. IF you murderd someone else yes their is forgiveness as long as your alive. But if you commit suicide, you kill yourself and theirs no time for repenting. So think TWICE befor you think the unthinkable. Theirs Hope in JESUS CHRIST!!!!!1

  22. jennifer says:

    I understand this poem. Anne was giving a message about death and suicide. I’ve had some problems with that myself, I’ve tried alot of things so for ppl who dont think she’s a good poet ur fucked up cuz u just don get it!!!!!11

  23. Violet says:

    I got that Anne was questioning her freedom to die once again. By once again, she meant she had attempted before. Thus, do I believe, did she have an entirely apathetic tone as to whether or not those reading took her seriously. She was trying to let us in on the secret of death and what beauty the decision held for her. Why let some omniscient hand guide your fate, when you, who know yourself more than gods can allow, can decide when is right and in what manner is most pleasing for you? For me, Anne is jealous of those who have found death in the medium of violence that suits them. She wishes she could just lay down and have her spirit leave her as it might have occurred in an ancient Hindu Tale. It’s not for any of us to judge; her or the others herein. There’s a deeper meaning we’ve all missed, and only Anne can tell.

  24. natalie says:

    u r rite abbey…i have’nt been thru a lot of wat anne has but not only hav i been thru depression + attempted suicide myself..i understand that feeling. it is so disrespectful 2 anne sexton 2 spit n the face such a gifted + very talented woman.abbey u r so immature. if u guyz r not goin 2 post post-worthy comments w/intelligentce then just shut your fucking mouthes

  25. liz says:

    great peom. shows how she feels. ive slit my wrists, over-dosed. and none of it has worked. all i know is- death is by choice, not force. suicide is the last resort for ppl seeking comfort. so dont fuckin judge us to make yrslef feel better..

  26. natalie says:

    steph is completley inaccurate—-not just bout suicide but about sexton as well.obviousley,steph u have never felt that type od paralyzing despair.+ have’nt u read anne’s bio’s,steph?she did reach 4 help—-especially many times repeatedley at mental institutions.sexton was a very ill person beyond yours or molly’s comprhension.

  27. steph says:

    I disagree with Leilani, there are so many other ways out of situations then suicide. Anne Sexton took the suckers way out, and insteed of trying to solve her problems or talk to ppl about them she killed herslf. As far as the poem goes i wouldnt say it was one of her best but it was one that expressed her deepest secret.

  28. natalie says:

    this poem is soul-baring.it really speaks 2 me.i understand how 1 can b driven 2 suicide.i understand molly’s point,but it is possiblt 2 have a break down + it’s very possible 4 1 2 snap + take their life.suicide’s avery taboo + foreighn subject 2 the optimistic who just cannot understand it.

  29. Leilani says:

    I think suicide is commited by persons who see beyond. Anne Sexton obviously did and if her suicide was the only way to make her rest, I guess it makes it kind of ok for her. Not that suicide is ok in every single case, but just in this one, I guess it was the only way out.

  30. Amanda says:

    if you’re not going to say something nice about this poem, then don’t even bother leaving anything. Stop being immature. thank you, have a nice day 🙂

  31. mary says:

    I think it is a really good poem, it shows how she really felt and the kind of person she was.She needed somenone by her side to keep going and that is what we all should do, have someone to talk to and never let depression come into our lives.

  32. molly says:

    That was a really deep poem and really sad. I posted a comment because I want people to acknowledge and recognize this chicks existance in our world. New York City may not mind, but I do and I notice and its not cool. Suicide sucks, for you and the people around you.

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