Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.
She was irreverent, witty, and sarcastic – known as much for her flashing verbal exchanges and malicious wit as for the disenchanted stories and poems in which she revealed her humanity and underlying pessimism. She loved to drink, she loved to dance, she loved to smoke, she loved to swear. And she loved to fall in love with men who didn’t love her back.
She was involved in several extra-marital affairs, struggled with depression and alcoholism and attempted suicide on three (or possibly four, but who was counting?) occasions. Her life was filled with drama and personal darkness but through it all, she somehow managed to maintain the high quality of her writing. She managed, too, despite her cynicism, to take a lifelong if intermittent interest in political activism. One of the projects would affect her for the remainder of her life was a demand for the release of two Italian immigrants, political anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti who had been arrested and set up to take the rap for a crime they didn’t commit, and she worked diligently at getting their death sentence overturned. She died of a heart attack in 1967 and willed her estate to Martin Luther King Jr. She was incinerated and desired her urn to be engraved with the following words: Excuse my dust.
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
I do not like my state of mind;
I’m bitter, querulous, unkind.
I hate my legs, I hate my hands,
I do not yearn for lovelier lands.
I dread the dawn’s recurrent light;
I hate to go to bed at night.
I snoot at simple, earnest folk.
I cannot take the gentlest joke.
I find no peace in paint or type.
My world is but a lot of tripe.
I’m disillusioned, empty-breasted.
For what I think, I’d be arrested.
I am not sick, I am not well.
My quondam dreams are shot to hell.
My soul is crushed, my spirit sore;
I do not like me any more.
I cavil, quarrel, grumble, grouse.
I ponder on the narrow house.
I shudder at the thought of men…
I’m due to fall in love again.
The friends I made have slipped and strayed.
And who’s the one that cares?
A trifling lot and best forgot-
And that’s my tale, and theirs.
Then if my friendships break and bend,
There’s little need to cry
The while I know that every foe
Is faithful till I die.