• The Legend of the One-Eyed Man

    Anne Sexton

    Summer 1964

    Like Oedipus I am losing my sight.
    Like Judas I have done my wrong.
    Their punishment is over;
    the shame and disgrace of it
    are all used up.
    But as for me,
    look into my face
    and you will know that crimes dropped upon me
    as from a high building
    and although I cannot speak of them
    or explain the degrading details
    I have remembered much
    about Judas—
    about Judas, the old and the famous—
    that you overlooked.
    The story of his life
    is the story of mine.
    I have one glass eye.
    My nerves push against its painted surface
    but the other one
    waiting for judgment
    continues to see. . . .

    Of course
    the New Testament is very small.
    Its mouth opens four times—
    as out-of-date as a prehistoric monster,
    yet somehow man-made,
    held together by pulleys
    like the stone jaw of a back-hoe.
    It gouges out the Judaic ground,
    taking its own backyard
    like a virgin daughter.

    And furthermore how did Judas come into it—
    that Judas Iscariot,
    belonging to the tribe of Reuben?
    He should have tried to lift him up there!
    His neck like an iron pole,
    hard as Newcastle,
    his heart as stiff as beeswax,
    his legs swollen and unmarked,
    his other limbs still growing.
    All of it heavy!
    That dead weight that would have been his fault.
    He should have known!

    In the first place who builds up such ugliness?
    I think of this man saying . . .
    Look! Here’s the price to do it
    plus the cost of the raw materials
    and if it took him three or four days
    to do it, then, they’d understand.
    They figured the boards in excess
    of three-hundred pounds.
    They figured it weighed enough
    to support a man. They said,
    fifteen stone is the approximate weight
    of a thief.

    Its ugliness is a matter of custom.
    If there was a mistake made
    then the Crucifix was constructed wrong . . .
    not from the quality of the pine,
    not from hanging a mirror,
    not from dropping the studding or the drill
    but from having an inspiration. But Judas was not a genius
    or under the auspices of an inspiration.

    I don’t know whether it was gold or silver.
    I don’t know why he betrayed him
    other than his motives,
    other than the avaricious and dishonest man.
    And then there were the forbidden crimes,
    those that were expressly foretold,
    and then overlooked
    and then forgotten
    except by me. . . .

    Judas had a mother
    just as I had a mother.
    Oh! Honor and relish the facts!
    Do not think of the intense sensation
    I have as I tell you this
    but think only . . .

    Judas had a mother.
    His mother had a dream.
    Because of this dream
    he was altogether managed by fate
    and thus he raped her.
    As a crime we hear little of this.
    Also he sold his God.

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