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  • Poem of the Day: With Mercy for the Greedy
    Concerning your letter in which you ask   
    me to call a priest and in which you ask   
    me to wear The Cross that you enclose;   
    your own cross,
    your dog-bitten cross,
    no larger than a thumb,
    small and wooden, no thorns, this rose—

    I pray to its shadow,
    that gray place
    where it lies on your letter ... deep, deep.
    I detest my sins and I try to believe
    in The Cross. I touch its tender hips, its dark jawed face,   
    its solid neck, its brown sleep.

    True. There is
    a beautiful Jesus.
    He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
    How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
    How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!   
    But I can't. Need is not quite belief.

    All morning long   
    I have worn
    your cross, hung with package string around my throat.   
    It tapped me lightly as a child's heart might,
    tapping secondhand, softly waiting to be born.   
    Ruth, I cherish the letter you wrote.

    My friend, my friend, I was born   
    doing reference work in sin, and born   
    confessing it. This is what poems are:   
    with mercy
    for the greedy,
    they are the tongue's wrangle,
    the world's pottage, the rat's star.

    Anne Sexton, "With Mercy for the Greedy" from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981). Copyright © 1981 by Linda Gray Sexton and Loring Conant, Jr. Reprinted with the permission of Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc.

    Source: The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1981)

    Anne Sexton

    More poems by this author



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