My friend, my friend, I was born
doing reference work in sin, and born
confessing it. This is what poems are…
-Anne Sexton, ‘With Mercy for the Greedy’
Forgive my fat mouth! Topsy-
turvy glutton. It begs speech and out
it wings, a swallow from the flue… Careful,
girl, your tongue might fly out, too… It happens
I’m a long line’s lonely sum, and rank
confessor, posting sin before I even fell
to earth (the sparkling
cider in her nuptial glass, empire
waisted gown to hide her girth…) I must
catalogue these failings—Irish music
drenched in gin! Its pipes would wallow me
into the bin… toora, loora, looral—
focus, girl, or follow in their sins…
Idolatry, now there’s a pretty word!
Grandma worshipped whiskey in the glass, two cubes
that clinked and cooled—how her head ached
when my Dad would wake for school! Her fists
curled up like smoke if Grandpa asked
her where she’d been the night before—but
in her head, she heard her father hiss
you whore… he used to beat
her face until she bled, her mother
always turned the other cheek. Her sister
Grace, the one who courted trouble?
Girl, it doubled back on her… oh, but
that’s a different tale, another
time. Bless me,
Dad, I have to speak
your crimes—your fury zipped the house
shut like the priest’s confessional slot!
Even the dogs refused their bark.
All mouth, I mapped escape routes
in the dark—lusty girl, with mercy
for her body. My hands skimmed brand new
breasts, then wandered south—
since we’ve happened onto lust, let’s
say it plain. At 23, (and four, and five…)
I numbered men like sleepless children
count fat sheep. More, I cried, and more!
Another needle in the vein— my wounded
need’s a wild, trackless
train. On, it ticks, and on
like tatted lace—these poems
are its wrangled, desperate trace—
they bleed in some back alley
with poor, reckless Grace. Oh, greedy
tongue, don’t fail me.
Heed this seedy call. My God, my
God, I’m sorry, but I have to spin it all.