The poem I am sharing with you today is inspirited by Anne Sexton’s “The Truth the Dead Know”. This poem however is different in that it focuses on life, as a result of a new born, as opposed to death. I followed Sexton’s structure of a four-lined four stanza poem, my own exceptions being that my second and fourth lines have an extra, tabbed line. Also my own does not follow a specific rhyme scheme of abab/bcbc/efef/ghgh.
Sexton detailed two particular events in her poem, her relationship with her significant other and a funeral procession, presumably that of her parents. The weight of the procession drove her to recounting her relations with her lover. I believe this is done in large part to parallel the intense sadness of the lost of a loved one. In talking about her relationship with her lover, she is able to build up the same intensity through another related though different emotion, love.
My poem seeks to express the immense joy of a new child by displaying the intensity of a relationship between two lovers. I’ve often heard people say that raising or caring for children is taste of divine responsibility and power. Keeping this in mind, I wanted to bring the image back down to earth – so to speak – and acknowledge that human capability is often far beneath those of their aspirations. And finally, the last two lines are meant to be alluding back to Robert Frost’s “After Apple-Picking”, as I felt the point of human limitation was best exemplified with this image.
I've included a copy of both Sexton's and Frost's poems below my own.
The Truth the Living Know
Here, he’s here, I hear my mother yelp repeatedly about the blank-walled hospital,
Refusing to acknowledge the weighty sadness of this initiation,
Allowing him to be ogled and photographed like a first place trophy.
It’s June, time for soggy soil, fermenting air – I’m weary of its heat.
We drive slowly – and quietly, taking the main streets instead. I knead
My spirit in the slighted rays flashing on and off my russet skin through
the window; in the same way, your own hands press into my tenderness
in the late nights and early mornings. In every country people die,
and ones like our new are washed out to replace them.
My lover/best friend, did you know that our unintelligible sounds unlock
Ethereal mysteries – is a barbaric, adlibbed paean susurrating purples and
Autumn colors into the pitch black of our bedroom? With you, I could never
be alone. Our bodies are unfixed currency in a falling economy.
So what can be said of the living? They push hard up against soft bodies,
In their most vulnerable states. They are more human than they are divine,
Unwinding themselves until there is no more, or until there is another. They
Refuse the curse of life fiercely – arms too short to grasp
a pristine new apple high up in the tree.
The Truth the Dead Know by: Anne Sexton
For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one's alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
After Apple-Picking by: Robert Frost
My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.