Anne Champion Poetry: “Anne Sexton Prepares for the End”

After the shoulder heave of a garage door,
my body weighs heavy in my shoes,
a little slack, a little sagging—

it’s no secret time is erasing me,
and only vodka can wet my throat.
I inhale its pungent punch,

the scent familiar in its knock-out
discomfort, just as my body is only
familiar when the knots squeeze

like a hangman’s rope. No one said
the end would be so hard, like swimming
upstream, collapsing into the achy stone

of death. I’ve always imagined that I’d die
exploding like an orchid, face gasping
towards the sun, body nestled in dirt

like tenderness. On my drive home, people
stopped looking real, headlights
smearing chalk into a charcoal night.

The cars are always coming and always going.
What I mean is that beginnings and endings
are delusions, hallucinations

of meaning. I tell you, this life has never been
mine. Do you feel it too? The pushback
threatening you to exhaustion,

the current pulling you down like a no-good lover,
like the weight of my mother’s old fur coat,
like always choosing the paths

along the cliffs, adrenaline junky, shameless
flirter with death. When I’m gone,
they’ll pilfer my garbage,

search my poems to trace the residue
of my days. In the car, the engine
hums my final cry, the air

tastes as rich as dollops of frosting
on a wedding cake, I turn my face
to the sky— dear orchid body,

it’s time for the second winter, it’s time
to give the world impossible blooms
in its freezing darkness,

it’s time to cast your shadow
across the fence, stalks bowed, muted
calyx tongues tasting grace.

Anne Champion is the author of Reluctant Mistress (Gold Wake Press, 2013) and The Dark Length Home (Noctuary Press, 2017). Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Prairie Schooner, The Pinch, PANK, Thrush, Redivider, New South, and elsewhere. She was a recipient of the Academy of American Poet’s Prize and the Barbara Deming Memorial grant, a 2015 Best of the Net winner, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a St. Botolph Emerging Writer’s Grant nominee. She holds degrees in Behavioral Psychology and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University and received her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College. She currently teaches writing and literature at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts.

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