In her poem “The Addict”, Anne Gray Harvey (Anne Sexton) describes her experience of addiction to sleeping pills and her nighttime ritual of taking them. The author dealt with significant mental-health issues throughout her life, tragically, culminating in suicide.
with capsules in my palms each night,
eight at a time from sweet pharmaceutical bottles
I make arrangements for a pint-sized journey.
I’m the queen of this condition.
I’m an expert on making the trip
and now they say I’m an addict.
Now they ask why.
Don’t they know that I promised to die!
I’m keeping in practice.
I’m merely staying in shape.
The pills are a mother, but better,
every color and as good as sour balls.
I’m on a diet from death.
Yes, I admit
it has gotten to be a bit of a habit-
blows eight at a time, socked in the eye,
hauled away by the pink, the orange,
the green and the white goodnights.
I’m becoming something of a chemical mixture.
My supply of tablets
has got to last for years and years.
I like them more than I like me.
It’s a kind of marriage.
It’s a kind of war where I plant bombs inside of myself.
I try to kill myself in small amounts,
an innocuous occupation.
Actually I’m hung up on it.
But remember I don’t make too much noise.
And frankly no one has to lug me out
and I don’t stand there in my winding sheet.
I’m a little buttercup in my yellow nightie
eating my eight loaves in a row
and in a certain order as in
the laying on of hands
or the black sacrament.
It’s a ceremony
but like any other sport
it’s full of rules.
It’s like a musical tennis match where
my mouth keeps catching the ball.
Then I lie on my altar
elevated by the eight chemical kisses.
What a lay me down this is
with two pink, two orange,
two green, two white goodnights.
Now I’m borrowed.
Now I’m numb.
Feature: Klesta on flickr