Leaves That Talk

For my first post, I figured I’d just include the poem by Anne Sexton from which the title of my Blog comes (“My Green Ladies Are Leaving.”) It’s entitled “Leaves That Talk.” And I can’t find it anywhere on the internet, so I suppose I’ll type it out. It’s a remarkable poem, but try to forgive any typos.

It’s May 20th and the leaves,
green, green, wearing their masks
and speaking, calling out their Sapphic loves,
are here- here- here-
calling out their death wish:

“Anne, Anne, come to us.”
to die of course. Come when listening
to the voices of the doves
that burst in them and out of them.
I mean their veins, their hearts
who scare you and beguile you
with their woman apron lives,
their doves’ arms flapping
from their cage, their brown stick branches.

I told someone once how they called to me,
sang to me, and that someone fled.
Now I will tell a priest
or is it a priestess?
Both, one and all and the same.
They call, though I sit here
sensibly behind my window screen.
They call, even if I’m pinned behind bars.
They call, they call their green death call.
They want me. They need me.
I belong lying down under them,
letting the green coffin fold and unfold
above me as I go out.

I flee. I flee.
I block my ears and eat salami.
I turn on THE song of THE LADY
but the leaves’ song crawls through
and into it and mixes like a dream in a dream.
I confess. I confess.
They steam all summer,
calling dark and light and moonstone
and they do not shut up.
They do not.

It is bad for me, dear confessor,
and yet I am in love with it.
It has a body.
It has many bodies.
I do not believe in ghosts
(very much)
but I wonder if they aren’t my whole past-
the generation of women, down the line,
the genealogical line right to the Mayflower,
and William Brewster and his woman
who rolled herself sick unto death
until she reached this promised land.
Oh well- whoever my green girls are-
they are.

I dream it’s the fourth of July
and I’m having a love affair
with grandfather (his real birthday)
and that the leaves fall off,
clank, clank,
crashing down like stones, New England
stones, one by one,
and in my dream
grandfather touches my neck and breast
and says, “Do not be afraid!
It’s only the leaves falling!”
There are one hundred thousand woman cries,
tree by tree, and I scream out in my fear
that my green ladies are leaving,
my lovely obsessions,
and I need them.
I sob.
I wake up.

And, dear God,
I am Rip van Winkle.
It is six A.M.
July 5, 1974,
and the branches are bare.
The leaves lie in green mounds,
like fake green snow huts.
And from the window as I peer out,
I see they have left their cages forever-
those wiry, spidery branches-
for me to people
someday soon when I turn green
and faithless to the summer.


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