Anne Sexton’s Winter Asylum

by Christy Bailes

file000855786866Silky froth seeps through the window cracks and battles with a 1950s cast-iron radiator heater. The smell of vanilla frosting wakes Anne from two-hour’s worth of slumber. Still dressed with last night’s clothes, she sits up in bed. Vodka and pill bottles tumble off her legs and land on the black bedspread that has held her tight all night. Her shaky hands reach for the pack of cigarettes and matches on the brown nightstand. With one light of the match, Anne cuts into the sweet smell of winter. The first morning drag sharpens her sense of asylum–shouted silence by the lover that left her. And she knows that silence couldn’t be more white, more filled with death. At the thought of death, she seductively grins using more than her mouth; she uses her svelte body and her coffee-brown hair and her blue eyes that look preserved into a goddess. While so much beauty pauses for her mind to reflect, white ashes fall from the cigarette, burning stars into the black bedspread. Finally, she taps and turns her head to the right, where the sun greets her. Looking through the old wood window always gives her comfort, especially with the frost covering all twenty-four window panes. But comfort only means death to her; and so she drives the cigarette into her forearm to put it out and put out the comfort feeling, then flicks it onto the shaggy cream carpet, next to the other cigarettes.

After thirty minutes of internal debate as to whether or not she should get up, Anne tugs hard at the comforter to pull herself out from under the stuffed polyester. The black typewriter has kept her tucked in, grinning its silver bars at her dreams. She resents it for what it has become: the echo of her lover. By pure will, she escapes the chaos, and her bare feet land on typing paper that became airborne last night when the words didn’t look right. On her way to the three crowded book cases that resemble crooked teeth, she stumbles over a black ashtray. Luckily, the desk catches her fall. But right next to it, the walnut book cases tower the bedroom, just as he towered the bedroom. Oh, he took her over and over but wouldn’t take her mind, as if her mind had too much winter in it for his taste. But again, white has so much silence in it that death probably brushed up against him, scaring the “sex” right out of him, causing the white to spill again and again. It spills over last night’s half-eaten chicken bones that still sit on her desk, but they may as well be her bones on the plate. She doesn’t worry about flies getting to the bones. The meat will keep. Bugs disappear during Boston winters.

Her slender fingers reach for Sylvia Plath to find her favorite poem “Waking in Winter.” She knows exactly the page and chant-sobs over the words: “The skulls, the unbuckled bones facing the view.” Anne doesn’t have a balcony like her dear friend Sylvia because her bedroom touches earth, but she has unbuckled bones, long ones all over her body, so beautiful to him to touch. Madness makes her throw Sylvia on the floor and rip off her orange polyester blouse. She touches her bones; they feel like the chicken wings felt in her hands last night. If only, she were a white bird, she could fly them over Sylvia Plath’s balcony. Instead, she clenches onto the pearls around her neck. The beads are cold next to her naked skin. She removes them and lets them hang from the butternut squash-colored lamp, which hovers just enough over her desk to produce writing light. Half-naked, she throws herself onto pages and pages of typing paper all over the floor to create noise because six inches of winter has taken the last of the noise from her. Anne rolls around, tossing paper, as if she’s tossing him. Some hits the brown-circled embossed wallpaper that stands alone with only its geometrics; the other paper, she catches what she can and brings it to her chest, then releases, then collapses.

Silence fattens as she sleeps on the floor. Her desk, her book shelves, her bed all keep her in the asylum. The floor has her body, while dreams keep the silence away from her. But when she wakes, the silence will keep feasting until the bedroom ceiling snows warm kisses all over her body; and only then will the black stop punching holes through Anne because to her, she sees everything in reverse: Darkness means life and lightness means death. She has been living life outside-in for the sole purpose as communicator. But she will know this soon when life runs out and lands for the last time on the page.



Category: SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student