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More poems by Anne SextonAnne Sexton | Print this page.Print | View and Write CommentsComments | Books by Anne SextonBooks by Anne Sexton


Anne Sexton

A woman 
who loves a woman 
is forever young. 
The mentor 
and the student 
feed off each other. 
Many a girl 
had an old aunt 
who locked her in the study 
to keep the boys away. 
They would play rummy 
or lie on the couch 
and touch and touch. 
Old breast against young breast... 
Let your dress fall down your shoulder, 

come touch a copy of you 
for I am at the mercy of rain, 
for I have left the three Christs of Ypsilanti 
for I have left the long naps of Ann Arbor 
and the church spires have turned to stumps. 
The sea bangs into my cloister 
for the politicians are dying, 
and dying so hold me, my young dear, 
hold me... 
The yellow rose will turn to cinder 

and New York City will fall in 
before we are done so hold me, 
my young dear, hold me. 
Put your pale arms around my neck. 
Let me hold your heart like a flower 
lest it bloom and collapse. 
Give me your skin 
as sheer as a cobweb, 
let me open it up 
and listen in and scoop out the dark. 
Give me your nether lips 
all puffy with their art 
and I will give you angel fire in return. 
We are two clouds 
glistening in the bottle galss. 
We are two birds 
washing in the same mirror. 
We were fair game 
but we have kept out of the cesspool. 
We are strong. 
We are the good ones. 
Do not discover us 
for we lie together all in green 
like pond weeds. 
Hold me, my young dear, hold me. 
They touch their delicate watches 

one at a time. 
They dance to the lute 
two at a time. 
They are as tender as bog moss. 
They play mother-me-do 
all day. 
A woman 
who loves a woman 
is forever young. 
Once there was a witch's garden 
more beautiful than Eve's 
with carrots growing like little fish, 
with many tomatoes rich as frogs, 
onions as ingrown as hearts, 
the squash singing like a dolphin 
and one patch given over wholly to magic -- 
rampion, a kind of salad root 
a kind of harebell more potent than penicillin, 
growing leaf by leaf, skin by skin. 
as rapt and as fluid as Isadoran Duncan. 
However the witch's garden was kept locked 
and each day a woman who was with child 
looked upon the rampion wildly, 
fancying that she would die 
if she could not have it. 
Her husband feared for her welfare 
and thus climbed into the garden 
to fetch the life-giving tubers. 

Ah ha, cried the witch, 
whose proper name was Mother Gothel, 
you are a thief and now you will die. 
However they made a trade, 
typical enough in those times. 
He promised his child to Mother Gothel 
so of course when it was born 
she took the child away with her. 
She gave the child the name Rapunzel, 
another name for the life-giving rampion. 
Because Rapunzel was a beautiful girl 
Mother Gothel treasured her beyond all things. 
As she grew older Mother Gothel thought: 
None but I will ever see her or touch her. 
She locked her in a tow without a door 
or a staircase. It had only a high window. 
When the witch wanted to enter she cried" 
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair. 
Rapunzel's hair fell to the ground like a rainbow. 
It was as strong as a dandelion 
and as strong as a dog leash. 
Hand over hand she shinnied up 
the hair like a sailor 
and there in the stone-cold room, 
as cold as a museum, 
Mother Gothel cried: 
Hold me, my young dear, hold me, 
and thus they played mother-me-do. 

Years later a prince came by 
and heard Rapunzel singing her loneliness. 
That song pierced his heart like a valentine 
but he could find no way to get to her. 
Like a chameleon he hid himself among the trees 
and watched the witch ascend the swinging hair. 
The next day he himself called out: 
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair, 
and thus they met and he declared his love. 
What is this beast, she thought, 
with muscles on his arms 
like a bag of snakes? 
What is this moss on his legs? 
What prickly plant grows on his cheeks? 
What is this voice as deep as a dog? 
Yet he dazzled her with his answers. 
Yet he dazzled her with his dancing stick. 
They lay together upon the yellowy threads, 
swimming through them 
like minnows through kelp 
and they sang out benedictions like the Pope. 

Each day he brought her a skein of silk 
to fashion a ladder so they could both escape. 
But Mother Gothel discovered the plot 
and cut off Rapunzel's hair to her ears 
and took her into the forest to repent. 
When the prince came the witch fastened 
the hair to a hook and let it down. 
When he saw Rapunzel had been banished 
he flung himself out of the tower, a side of beef. 
He was blinded by thorns that prickled him like tacks. 
As blind as Oedipus he wandered for years 
until he heard a song that pierced his heart 
like that long-ago valentine. 
As he kissed Rapunzel her tears fell on his eyes 
and in the manner of such cure-alls 
his sight was suddenly restored. 

They lived happily as you might expect 
proving that mother-me-do 
can be outgrown, 
just as the fish on Friday, 
just as a tricycle. 
The world, some say, 
is made up of couples. 
A rose must have a stem. 

As for Mother Gothel, 
her heart shrank to the size of a pin, 
never again to say: Hold me, my young dear, 
hold me, 
and only as she dreamed of the yellow hair 
did moonlight sift into her mouth.

Submitted by RW

Added: 24 Feb 2003 | Last Read: 3 Dec 2020 5:49 AM | Viewed: 29755 times

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