Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Anne Sexton / And one for my dame


and one for my dame

By Anne Sexton

A born salesman,

my father made all his dough

by selling wool to Fieldcrest, Woolrich and Faribo.

A born talker,

he could sell one hundred wet-down bales

of that white stuff. He could clock the miles and sales

and make it pay.

At home each sentence he would utter

had first pleased the buyer who’d paid him off in butter.

Each word

had been tried over and over, at any rate,

on the man who was sold by the man who filled my plate.

My father hovered

over the Yorkshire pudding and the beef:

a peddler, a hawker, a merchant and an Indian chief.

Roosevelt! Willkie! and war!

How suddenly gauche I was

with my old-maid heart and my funny teenage applause.

Each night at home

my father was in love with maps

while the radio fought its battles with Nazis and Japs.

Except when he hid

in his bedroom on a three-day drunk,

he typed out complex itineraries, packed his trunk,

his matched luggage

and pocketed a confirmed reservation,

his heart already pushing over the red routes of the nation.

I sit at my desk

each night with no place to go,

opening the wrinkled maps of Milwaukee and Buffalo,

the whole U.S.,

its cemeteries, its arbitrary time zones,

through routes like small veins, capitals like small stones.

He died on the road,

pushed from neck to back,

his white hanky signaling from the window of the Cadillac,

My husband,

as blue-eyed as a picture book, sells wool:

boxes of card waste, laps and rovings he can pull

to the thread

and say Leicester, Rambouillet, Merino,

a half-blood, it’s greasy and thick, yellow as old snow.

And when you drive off, my darling,

Yes, sir! Yes, sir! It’s one for my dame,

your sample cases branded with my father’s name,

your itinerary open,

its tolls ticking and greedy,

its highways built up like new loves, raw and speedy.

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