Jul. 27, 2008

Locked Doors

by Anne Sexton

For the angels who inhabit this town,
although their shape constantly changes,
each night we leave some cold potatoes
and a bowl of milk on the windowsill.
Usually they inhabit heaven where,
by the way, no tears are allowed.

They push the moon around like
a boiled yam.
The Milky Way is their hen
with her many children.
When it is night the cows lie down
but the moon, that big bull,
stands up.

However, there is a locked room up there
with an iron door that can't be opened.
It has all your bad dreams in it
It is hell.
Some say the devil locks the door
from the inside.
Some say the angels lock it from
the outside.
The people inside have no water
and are never allowed to touch.
They crack like macadam.
They are mute
They do not cry help
except inside
where their hearts are covered with grubs.

I would like to unlock that door,
turn the rusty key
and hold each fallen one in my arms
but I cannot, I cannot.
I can only sit here on earth
at my place at the table.

"Locked Doors" by Anne Sexton from Complete Poems. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1999. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Joseph Mitchell, (books by this author) born in Fairmont, North Carolina (1908). He was a writer for the New Yorker magazine for many years. His stories focused on people living on the fringe in New York City. They featured gypsies, alcoholics, the homeless, fishmongers, and a band of Mohawk Indians who worked as riveters on skyscrapers and bridges and had no fear of heights. Most of his journalism is featured in the book Up in the Old Hotel (1992). While at the New Yorker, Joseph Mitchell interviewed criminals, evangelists, politicians, and celebrities. He said that he was a good interviewer because he had lost the ability to detect insanity. He listened to everyone, even those who were crazy, as if they were sane. He said, "The best talk is artless, the talk of people trying to reassure or comfort themselves."

Mitchell published his last book in 1965, Joe Gould's Secret, about a man who said that he learned the language of seagulls and was now writing the longest book in the world. For the next 30 years, Mitchell kept going to his New Yorker office without publishing another word.

It's the birthday of Hilaire Belloc, (books by this author) born in Paris, France (1870). In his lifetime, he was known for his journalism and serious essays, but today he's best known for his books of humorous verse about naughty children and for lines such as these:

"I'm tired of love; I'm still more tired of rhyme; but money gives me pleasure all the time."

"When I am dead, I hope it may be said:
His sins were scarlet, but his books were read."

It's the birthday of Irish poet Michael Longley, (books by this author) born in Belfast (1939). He and a few other poets from Northern Ireland—Seamus Heaney, James Simmons, and Derek Mahon—became associated with each other and known as "The Group." They had started publishing their work around the same time—the 1960s—and they sometimes wrote about similar things, such as the acts of violence that surrounded them in Belfast: "the Troubles." The poets of The Group actively encouraged and supported each other, and Longley dedicated his collection An Exploded View: Poems 1968-72 to these Northern Irish poets, writing, "We are trying to make ourselves heard / ... Like the child who cries out in the dark."

He went to school at Trinity College Dublin and studied the classics. Much of his poetry contains references to classical literature. Some of his poems are based on Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, and there are some based on Ovid's Metamorphoses. In his poetry, he also revisits themes revolving around Ireland —its landscape, wildlife, and the conflicts of its people—as well as jazz music and American poets and myths. He wrote a poem titled "Emily Dickinson" and one called "A Questionnaire for Walter Mitty."

He's the author of the poetry collections Fishing in the Sky: Love Poems (1975), Man Lying on a Wall (1976), Gorse Fires (1991), and the multi-prize-winning collection The Weather in Japan (2000). He said, "I live for those moments when language itself takes over the enterprise, and insight races ahead of knowledge. Occasionally I have things to say, or there is something I want to describe. But these are not my main reasons for writing."

And, "The Muse of Poetry is a fickle and wayward lady."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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