Anne Sexton
The Ambition Bird (c. 1960)

 

So it has come to this

 

insomnia at 3:15 A.M.,

 

the clock tolling its engine

 

 

 

like a frog following

5

a sundial yet having an electric

 

seizure at the quarter hour.

 

 

 

The business of words keeps me awake.

 

I am drinking cocoa,

 

that warm brown mama.

 

 

10

I would like a simple life

 

yet all night I am laying

 

poems away in a long box.

 

 

 

It is my immortality box,

 

my lay-away plan,

15

my coffin.

 

 

 

All night dark wings

 

flopping in my heart.

 

Each an ambition bird.

 

 

 

The bird wants to be dropped

20

from a high place like Tallahatchie Bridge.

 

 

 

He wants to light a kitchen match

 

and immolate himself.

 

 

 

He wants to fly into the hand of Michelangelo

 

and come out painted on a ceiling.

 

 

25

He wants to pierce the hornet's nest

 

and come out with a long godhead.

 

 

 

He wants to take bread and wine

 

and bring forth a man happily floating in the Caribbean.

 

 

 

He wants to be pressed out like a key

30

so he can unlock the Magi.

 

 

 

He wants to take leave among strangers

 

passing out bits of his heart like hors d'oeuvres.

 

 

 

He wants to die changing his clothes

 

and bolt for the sun like a diamond.

 

 

35

He wants, I want.

 

Dear God, wouldn't it be

 

good enough to just drink cocoa?

 

 

 

I must get a new bird

 

and a new immortality box.

40

There is folly enough inside this one.