Christmas Eve By Anne Sexton

Oh sharp diamond, my mother!

I could not count the cost

of all your faces, your moods–

that present that I lost.

Sweet girl, my deathbed,

my jewel-fingered lady,

your portrait flickered all night

by the bulbs of the tree.


Your face as calm as the moon

over a mannered sea,

presided at the family reunion,

the twelve grandchildren

you used to wear on your wrist,

a three-months-old baby,

a fat check you never wrote,

the red-haired toddler who danced the twist,

your aging daughters, each one a wife,

each one talking to the family cook,

each one avoiding your portrait,

each one aping your life.


Later, after the party,

after the house went to bed,

I sat up drinking the Christmas brandy,

watching your picture,

letting the tree move in and out of focus.

The bulbs vibrated.

They were a halo over your forehead.

Then they were a beehive,

blue, yellow, green, red;

each with its own juice, each hot and alive

stinging your face. But you did not move.

I continued to watch, forcing myself,

waiting, inexhaustible, thirty-five.


I wanted your eyes, like the shadows

of two small birds, to change.

But they did not age.

The smile that gathered me in, all wit,

all charm, was invincible.

Hour after hour I looked at your face

but I could not pull the roots out of it.

Then I watched how the sun hit your red sweater, your withered neck,

your badly painted flesh-pink skin.

You who led me by the nose, I saw you as you were.

Then I thought of your body

as one thinks of murder–


Then I said Mary–

Mary, Mary, forgive me

and then I touched a present for the child,

the last I bred before your death;

and then I touched my breast

and then I touched the floor

and then my breast again as if,

somehow, it were one of yours.


About Author Annette J Dunlea Irish Writer

Irish Writer Website: Twitter: @adunlea Facebook:
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