Written by 1:27 pm Art Is Essential

Art is Essential Essays vol. 3

Writers on the art that matters to them

The Last Page


Retired, I spend time in my office writing. Self-quarantined. In front of my desk, a bookshelf stands, the books like Moai, but glanced only from the side. All except one, a book of poems, Transformations. In Transformations, Anne Sexton retells Grimm’s Fairy Tales, giving the old stories a new spin. Her narrative poetry chokes with simile and metaphor. I positioned the book in a way as to see the entire cover with Anne’s name below the title.

I discovered the book while attending Pitt in some imaginary number during the Seventies. Wanting to impress my writing professor, I described the book. She waited until I stopped gushing before she told me she had encountered the book herself a month before. When she asked me what I thought, I told her that I wanted to write like Anne Sexton. She smiled like a grandmother.

At the time, I bought several copies and gave them to friends: a waitress, a barber, a welder. I read it now and wonder how it affected them. Did the waitress get more tips? Did the barber cut hair with more gusto? Did the welder see visions through the manganese flame of the welding rod? I don’t know.

After I reread my copy, I find that the last page—a blank page—has been torn in half like an amputee. And, after a moment, I remembered where the missing appendage disappeared. It vanished in the palm of a girl who kissed like V-J Day. When I offered her the book, she asked me what it was about. After I told her, she asked for my phone number. The only piece of paper I had . . .

I’d like to step into its golden frame. I’d love to feel the burn in my legs as I climb along the curved path. I don’t remember the girl’s name. But I still have her copy.

That sailor who kissed that girl on V-J Day in Times Square, donnarkevic would have been the photographer.

Anne Sexton, born November 9, 1928 (died 1974), began writing poetry while attending boarding school in Rogers Hall Lowell, Massachusetts. Her 1971 work Transformations, viewed as her most intimate work, is also hailed as a feminist cornerstone.

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