"Rowing" is the first song of David Conte's song cycle Sexton Songs. The cycle is for soprano and piano or chamber ensemble and sets the poetry of Anne Sexton.

The audio selection features Marnie Breckenridge, soprano, and Ensemble Parallele with Nicole Paiement, conductor. Used with the permission of the composer.

Date: 2004Composer: David ConteText: Anne SextonSong Collection: Sexton Songs

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by Anne Sexton

A story, a story!
tt(Let it go. Let it come.)
ttI was stamped out like a Plymouth fender
ttinto this world.
ttFirst came the crib
ttwith its glacial bars.
ttThen dolls
ttand the devotion to their plastic mouths.
ttThen there was school,
ttthe little straight rows of chairs,
ttblotting my name over and over,
ttbut undersea all the time,
tta stranger whose elbows wouldn’t work.
ttThen there was life
ttwith its cruel houses
ttand people who seldom touched –
ttthough touch is all –
ttbut I grew,
ttlike a pig in a trench coat I grew,
ttand then there were many strange apparitions,
ttthe nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
ttand all of that, saws working through my heart,
ttbut I grew, I grew,
ttand God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
ttstill ignorant of Him, my arms and my legs worked,
ttand I grew, I grew,
ttI wore rubies and bought tomatoes
ttand now, in my middle age,
ttabout nineteen in the head I’d say,
ttI am rowing, I am rowing
ttthough the oarlocks stick and are rusty
ttand the sea links and rolls
ttlike a worried eyeball,
ttbut I am rowing, I am rowing,
ttthough the wind pushes me back
ttand I know that the island will not be perfect,
ttit will have the flaws of life,
ttthe absurdities of the dinner table,
ttbut there will be a door,
ttand I will open it,
ttand I will get rid of the rat inside of me,
ttthe gnawing pestilential rat.
ttGod will take it with his two hands
ttand embrace it.
ttAs the African says:
ttThis is my tale which I have told.
ttIf it be sweet, if it be not sweet,
ttTake somewhere else,
ttand let some return to me.
ttThis story ends with me still rowing.



    Sheet Music

    Sexton Songs (all versions)

    Composer(s): David Conte

    Song(s): 1. Rowing
    2. Her Kind
    3. Ringing the Bells
    4. Riding the Elevator into the Sky
    5. Us

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