Okay, it's been more than a day. But here's your second poem on the subject:
by Anne Sexton
It is in the small things we see it.
The child’s first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
[Rest of poem removed because it’s probably still in copyright]
You all noticed, of course, that the poem contains a lifetime. That it begins with a child's first steps and proceeds chronologically to end with old age and death. And Sexton tells you up front that it's about courage.
Courage is an everyday thing, Sexton says. Imagine the courage it took for you to stand up and walk for the first time, an event "as awesome as an earthquake." And I'm sure you can still remember the courage it took to endure schoolyard taunts. Nobody ever forgets them.
The next stanza moves courage into the arena of war, and refers specifically to the Korean War. "Waitaminute," you say. "Women weren't allowed in the war arena back then." Absolutely right. But your teachers misled you when they said that poetry was about self-expression. Sexton is speaking about the world and she's speaking for everyone.
Herein is the most subversive aspect of the poem: She converts the act of a buddy dying to save you from the martial rhetoric of Homer and the USMC to a quotidian (that means "everyday") reality. It's as simple as "shaving soap." Simultaneously here, she has undone the glory of the act while elevating it to the status of love.
So it goes, for two more stanzas. At the end of life, Sexton says, we are the most courageous of all. And when at last you can't stave off death for even an instant longer, "you'll put on your carpet slippers and stride out." Picture that in your mind: The courageous stride, the ridiculous carpet slippers. Fools on the outside, but heroes within. This is the human condition glorified.
Life is tough business, Sexton says. It's not for sissies. We're not sissies, you and I. We're human beings.
P.S. So why shaving soap and not hand soap? To defend herself from the charge that she's trying to "feminize" men. She's just trying to reflect on the way things really are.