“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

33 Comments

  1. izzy says:

    Hello, does anyone know what year, preferably month as well, that this poem was written? I am struggling to find dates for a lot of Sexton’s work…
    Thank you

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. ~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…

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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