Being “Young:” Anne Sexton on Bodies, Words, Dreams

Here’s a poem that tells a story without sentimentality, without that myth of grownup reflection back onto childhood that makes it seem perfect — but with the details that bring us back, if we’re willing, to that awkward, smooth, troublesome place we all grow through… And pay attention, if you want to be a better writer, to that extraordinary first line that echoes in the daily activity of living, that tells the story better than any I could imagine…

by Anne Sexton

A thousand doors ago,
when I was a lonely kid
in a big house with four
garages and it was summer
as long as I could remember,
I lay on the lawn at night,
clover wrinkling over me,
the wise stars bedding over me,
my mother’s window a funnel
of yellow heat running out,
my father’s window, half shut,
an eye where sleepers pass,
and the boards of the house
were smooth and white as wax
and probably a million leaves
sailed on their strange stalks
as the crickets ticked together
and I, in my brand new body,
which was not a woman’s yet,
told the stars my questions
and thought God could really see
the heat and the painted light,
elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight.

“Young” by Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems. © Mariner Books, 1999.

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