Imitations Of Drowning

Fear of drowning, fear of being that alone, kept me busy making a deal as if I could buy my way out of it and it worked for two years and all of July.

This August I began to dream of drowning. The dying went on and on in water as white and clear as the gin I drink each day at half-past five. Going down for the last time, the last breath lying, I grapple with eels like ropes — it's ether, it's queer and then, at last, it's done. Now the scavengers arrive, the hard crawlers who come to clean up the ocean floor. And death, that old butcher, will bother me no more.

had never had this dream before except twice when my parents clung to rafts and sat together for death, frozen like lewd photographs.

Who listens to dreams? Only symbols for something — like money for the analyst or your mother's wig, the arm I almost lost in the washroom wringer, following fear to its core, tugging the old string. But real drowning is for someone else. It's too big to put in your mouth on purpose, it puts hot stingers in your tongue and vomit in your nose as your lungs break. Tossed like a wet dog by that juggler, you die awake.

Fear, a motor, pumps me around and around until I fade slowly and the crowd laughs. I fade out, an old bicycle rider whose odds are measured in actuary graphs.

This weekend the papers were black with the new highway fatalities and in Boston the strangler found another victim and we were all in Truro drinking beer and writing checks. The others rode the surf, commanding rafts like sleighs. I swam — but the tide came in like ten thousand orgasms. I swam — but the waves were higher than horses' necks. I was shut up in that closet, until, biting the door, they dragged me out, dribbling urine on the gritty shore.


And you'll know . . . an ant in a pot of chocolate, it boils and surrounds you. There is no news in fear but in the end it's fear that drowns you.

September 1962


I have a room of my own.

Rain drops onto it. Rain drops down like worms from the trees onto my frontal bone.

Haunted, always haunted by rain, the room affirms the words that I will make alone.

I come like the blind feeling for shelves, feeling for wood as hard as an apple, fingering the pen lightly, my blade.

With this pen I take in hand my selves and with these dead disciples I will grapple.

Though rain curses the window let the poem be made.

Rain is a finger on my eyeball.

Rain drills in with its old unnecessary stories . . .

I went to bed like a horse to its stall.

On my damp summer bed I cradled my salty knees and heard father kiss me through the wall and heard mother's heart pump like the tides.

The fog horn flattened the sea into leather.

I made no voyages, I owned no passport.

I was the daughter. Whiskey fortified my father in the next room. He outlasted the weather, counted his booty and brought his ship into port.

Rain, rain, at sixteen where I lay all night with Jack beside a tiny lake and did nothing at all, lay as straight as a bean.

We played bridge and beer games for their own sake, filled up the lamp with kerosene, brushed our teeth, made sandwiches and tea and lay down on the cabin bed to sleep.

I lay, a blind lake, feigning sleep while Jack pulled back the wooly covers to see my body, that invisible body that girls keep.

All that sweet night we rode out the storm back to back.

Now Jack says the Mass and mother died using her own bones for crutches.

There is rain on the wood, rain on the glass and I'm in a room of my own. I think too much.

Fish swim from the eyes of God. Let them pass.

Mother and Jack fill up heaven; they endorse my womanhood. Near land my ship comes about.

I come to this land to ride my horse, to try my own guitar, to copy out their two separate names like sunflowers, to conjure up my daily bread, to endure, somehow to endure.

October 1962

Was this article helpful?

0 0


  • mario
    What poetic devices do imitations of drowning have anne sexton?
    3 years ago

Post a comment