The Sickness Unto Death by Anne Sexton

I can’t say I have experienced this, but maybe it will give us compassion for those who seem to lose their way, ‘stop coming to church’, or just seem to ditch their faith. Its pretty damn gut wrenching and the post script is that the poet actually took her own life in 1974. Sometimes its easy to frown upon people who seem to give up faith and not feel what they feel. If it feels anything like this then its a tough place to be.

Found on Frosty’s facebook via Cruciality

God went out of me

as if the sea dried up like sandpaper,

as if the sun became a latrine.

God went out of my fingers.

They became stone.

My body became a side of mutton

and despair roamed the slaughterhouse.

Someone brought me oranges in my despair

but I could not eat a one

for God was in that orange.

I could not touch what did not belong to me.

The priest came,

he said God was even in Hitler.

I did not believe him

for if God were in Hitler

then God would be in me.

I did not hear the bird sounds.

They had left.

I did not see the speechless clouds,

I saw only the little white dish of my faith

breaking in the crater.

I kept saying:

I’ve got to have something to hold on to.

People gave me Bibles, crucifixes,

a yellow daisy,

but I could not touch them,

I who was a house full of bowel movement,

I who was a defaced altar,

I who wanted to crawl toward God

could not move nor eat bread.

So I ate myself,

bite by bite,

and the tears washed me,

wave after cowardly wave,

swallowing canker after canker

and Jesus stood over me looking down

and He laughed to find me gone,

and put His mouth to mine

and gave me His air.

My kindred, my brother, I said

and gave the yellow daisy

to the crazy woman in the next bed.

– Anne Sexton, ‘The Sickness Unto Death’, in The Complete Poems (New York: Mariner Books, 1981), 441–42.

1 thought on “The Sickness Unto Death by Anne Sexton

  1. That’s pretty deep Hammo. It makes me think of several that I have known over the years who have left the church, or renounced faith or who I have (to my shame) just forgotten about.

    I don’t know that they are all like this… but I’d be silly not to imagine that at least one did.

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