Menstruation at Forty

by Anne Sexton (American poet, 1928-1974)


(from Live or Die [1966], which won the Pulitzer Prize)

I was thinking of a son.

The womb is not a clock

nor a bell tolling,

but in the eleventh month of its life

I feel the November

of the body as well as of the calendar.

In two days it will be my birthday

and as always the earth is done with its harvest.

This time I hunt for death,

the night I lean toward,

the night I want.

Well then"

speak of it!

I was in the womb all along.

I was thinking of a son . . .

You! The never acquired,

the never seeded or unfastened,

you of the genitals I feared,

the stalk and the puppy's breath.

Will I give you my eyes or his?

Will you be the David or the Susan?

(Those two names I picked and listened for.)

Can you be the man your fathers are"

the leg muscles from Michaelangelo,

hands from Yugoslavia,

somewhere the peasant, Slavic and determined,

somewhere the survivor, bulging with life"

and could it still be possible,

all this with Susan's eyes?

All this without you"

two days gone in blood.

I myself will die without baptism,

a third daughter they didn't bother.

My death will come on my name day.

What's wrong with the name day?

It's only an angel of the sun.


weaving a web over your own,

a thin and tangled poison.


bad spider"


My death from the wrists,

two name tags,

blood worn like a corsage

to bloom

one on the left and one on the right"

It's a warm room,

the place of blood.

Leave the door open on its hinges!

Two days for your death

and two days until mine.

Love! That red disease"

year after year, David, you would make me wild!

David! Susan! David! David!

full and disheveled, hissing into the night

never growing old,

waiting always on the back porch . . .

year after year,

my carrot, my cabbage,

I would have possessed you before all women,

calling your name,

calling you mine.

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