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The Truth The Dead Know

Anne Sexton

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Added by: thisglimpse
Double meaning. The dead are gone. That is the reality of death, the only objective fact of it. All else is emotion or supposition. But regardless of what you feel or what you
believe about the afterlife, they are absent from experience as we know it.
But also, the poet is gone. Gone from mourning, gone from the procession, gone
from the presence of the dead, which is just accented absence. “I am tired of
being brave.” What is left for the mourner who can no longer be brave? She is gone.

[b]the stiff procession[/b]
Even those alive resemble those dead. And then there’s the joke. Anne likes to joke about sex and death -- even when she’s being most serious. A stiff is slang for a dead
person. So any funeral procession is a stiff procession.

[b]letting the dead ride alone[/b]always and evermore alone. Even if she were in the hearse, the dead would ride
alone. She would ride alone in the hearse, too. That’s what she is trying to escape.
That’s why she’s gone.

[b]I cultivate/myself[/b]
cultivate:“to loosen or break up the soil about”; also “to seek the society of : make
friends with” the first makes me think of Hosea 10:12 - “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to
seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” She is escaping to
regroup, to refresh; she is gone and needs to come back.

[b]the sun gutters from the sky[/b] another one the dictionary helped with. Gutter as a verb is something that candles do; it’s
when the wick or hot wax melts a hole in the side of the candle and the wax pours out. Which is a vivid image for the sun, the sky, the ocean, once you understand it.

[b]we touch.[/b]
it’s unclear if this we is the ocean, as it swings in, or the we that is in line1, “we drive to
the Cape.” unclear on purpose, I think. The point is, she’s not alone. She has escaped the dead.

[b]In another country people die.[/b] My favorite line in the entire poem, because of its double meaning. It is a
vivid, concise expression of the extent to which she has escaped the death of her parents -- it is remote,
it doesn’t happen here. And then it is also a startling reminder that even now, even at this moment of escape and peace, people are dying. You can’t escape it, even as you
escape it.

[b]we enter touch entirely.[/b]
Is it sexual? Perhaps. Not necessarily, not clearly, but perhaps. “My darling” lends
credence to that belief. But it could just be touch.

[b]Men kill for this, or as much.[/b] interesting play here, as we understand this touch -- sexual or not -- as being the opposite
of death, the way to escape death and come back from being gone. It’s not life, not
exactly, but a sort of anti-death. And men kill for it.
And if it is sex we’re talking about, here’s another, better joke. Men do kill for sex. The little death. And women find it somewhat amusing.

[b]And what of the dead?[/b]
You can escape, but you can never forget. And eventually, you have to explain yourself.
Even to the dead. Especially to the dead.

[b]They lie without shoes[/b]
Much as “we” do, if it’s sex.

[b]In their stone boats[/b]
Makes me think of the river Styxx and the journey away, from us in to the underworld.
They are voyaging now, never to return.

[b]They are more like stone / than the sea would be if it stopped.[/b]
The sea, if stopped, could just be calm. Peaceful. Even still, it is alive, just at rest. The
dead are gone. The stopped sea will return; the dead will not.

[b]They refuse/to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.[/b] Back to touch. Touch has saved the poet -- at least temporarily -- from the fate of the dead. But the dead cannot, refuse, to be touched. They will not feel it; they will not receive it. They are gone.

Added by: Linnea
This poem makes Reference to James Wright, in the second and third stanzas, whom Sexton had an affair with.
Added by: lostsoul89
This gave feeling. She expressd her parents deaths in such an artform. I understand her emotions as they poured from her heart in such a way as though I was feeling them too.

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