Sexton, Anne

United States, (1928-1974)


  1. Oh you brown bacon machine,
  2. how sweet you lie,
  3. gaining a pound and a half a day,
  4. you rolled-up pair of socks,
  5. you dog’s nightmare,
  6. your snout pushed in
  7. but leaking out the ears,
  8. your eyes as soft as eggs,
  9. hog, big as a cannon,
  10. how sweet you lie.
  12. I lie in my bed at night
  13. in the closet of my mind
  14. and count hogs in a pen,
  15. brown, spotted, white, pink, black,
  16. moving on the shuttle toward death
  17. just as my mind moves over
  18. for its own little death.

© the estate of Anne Sexton. 45 Mercy Street. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1976).

Editor’s Note:

Sexton thought of language as a symbolic method of communication, which was not simply verbal. Often, her use of imagery in poetry allowed her to communicated via metaphor rather than in a straightforward manner.

The posthumously published 45 Mercy Street was divided into three sections. For the second section of animal poems, “Bestiary U.S.A.,” Sexton’s imagery invests the eighteen animals she describes with the spirit of the divine.

In the introduction to the ‘Bestiary’ poems, Sexton said:

“I look at the strangeness in them and the naturalness they cannot help, in order to find some virtue in the beast in me.”


  1. of her arms, this was her sin:
  2. where the wood berries bin
  3. of forest was new and full,
  4. she crept out by its tall
  5. posts, those wooden legs,
  6. and heard the sound of wild pigs
  7. calling and did not wait nor care.
  8. The leaves wept in her hair
  9. as she sank to a pit of needles
  10. and twisted out the ivyless
  11. gate, where the wood berries bin
  12. was full and a pig came in.

© the estate of Anne Sexton. To Bedlam and Part Way Back. Boston: Houghton Mifflin (1960).

About the Poet:

Anne Sexton (1928-1974) was an American poet, known for her highly personal, confessional verse, often about her battle with depression, which she fought for most of her life. Themes of her poetry include her suicidal tendencies, her depression and intimate details from her private life and her experiences as a woman.

Sexton began writing poetry after her second breakdown in 1955. Her psychiatrist encouraged her to take up poetry, and she enrolled in her first poetry workshop, with the poet John Holmes as the instructor.

Four years after joining the Holmes workshop, Sexton’s first published collection, To Bedlam and Part Way Back (1960), described her mental breakdown and recovery. She later won a Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die (1966) and taught poetry workshops at Boston College, Oberlin College, and Colgate University. After several attempts, Sexton committed suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide in 1974. [DES-03/12]

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