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


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.




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,


my coffin.




All night dark wings


flopping in my heart.


Each an ambition bird.




The bird wants to be dropped


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.




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


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.




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.


There is folly enough inside this one.