I said I’d post a little Anne Sexton tonight. Transformations, her collection of retold fairy tales, is just the most magical, entertaining poetry. I feel like I want to give her a standing ovation at the end of each lyric tale. They are far too long to post a whole one here, but I’ll give you extracts from ‘Cinderella’ which follows almost a pattern with these poems of having a few introductory stanzas:
You always read about it:
the plumber with twelve children
who wins the Irish Sweepstakes.
From toilets to riches.
Or the nursemaid,
some luscious sweet from Denmark
who captures the oldest son’s heart.
From diapers to Dior.
Then she launches into the body of the tale with the same richly comic voice, recasting the fairy tale through the eyes of the world-weary modern woman, delighting in her gentle cynicism:
Next came the ball, as you all know.
It was a marriage market.
The prince was looking for a wife.
All but Cinderella were preparing
and gussying up for the big event.
Cinderella begged to go too.
Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils
into the cinders and said: Pick them
up in an hour and you shall go.
The white dove brought all his friends;
all the warm wings of the fatherland came,
and picked up the lentils in a jiffy.
No, Cinderella, said the stepmother,
you have no clothes and cannot dance.
That’s the way with stepmothers.
And she always packs a punch at the conclusion, remembering that these poems are dedicated to her daughter in her early teens, and unwilling, in such an Anne Sexton way, to let her lose herself in the thankless mythology of marriage as salvation:
Cinderella and the prince
lived, they say, happily ever after,
like two dolls in a museum case
never bothered by diapers or dust,
never arguing over the timing of an egg,
never telling the same story twice,
never getting middle-aged spread,
their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.
Regular Bobbsey Twins.
Isn’t she just wonderful?
Hoping to catch up on my blog reading this weekend – I’m way behind, but I’ll get there.