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Sylvia plath

Sylvia Plath

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
40

I am sending back the key
that let me into bluebeard’s study;
because he would make love to me
I am sending back the key;
in his eye’s darkroom I can see
my X-rayed heart, dissected body:
I am sending back the key
that let me into bluebeard’s study.

Fired in sanguine clay, the model head
Fit nowhere: thumbed out as a classroom exercise
By a casual friend, it stood
Obtrusive in the long bookshelf, stolidly propping
Thick volumes of prose—
Far too unlovely a conversation piece,
Her visitor claimed, for keeping.

And how unlike! In distaste he pointed at it:
Brickdust—complected, eyes under a dense lid
Half—blind, that derisive pout –
Rude image indeed, to ape with such sly treason
Her dear farce: best rid
Hearthstone at once of the outrageous head.
With goodwill she heard his reason,

But she– whether from habit grown overfond
Of the dented caricature, or fearing some truth
In old wives’ tales of a bond
Knitting to each original its coarse copy
(Woe if enemies, in wrath,
Take to sticking pins through wax!)—felt loath
To junk it. Scared, unhappy,
 
She watched the grim head swell mammoth, demanding a home
Suited to its high station: from a spectral dais
It menaced her in a dream—
Cousin perhaps to that vast stellar head
Housed in stark heavens, whose laws
Ordained now bland, now barbarous influences
Upon her purse, her bead.

No place, it seemed, for the effigy to fare
Free from annoy: if dump—discarded, rough boys
Spying a pate so spare
Glowering sullen and pompous from an ash—heap
Might well seize this prize
And maltreat the hostage head in shocking wise
Afflicting the owner’s sleep –

At the mere thought her head ached. A murky tarn
She considered then, thick—silted, with weeds obscured,
To serve her exacting turn:
But out of the watery aspic, laurelled by fins,
The simulacrum leered,
Lewdly beckoning. Her courage wavered:
She blenched, as one who drowns,

And resolved more ceremoniously to lodge
The mimic—head– in a crotched willow tree green—
Vaulted by foliage:
Let bell—tongued birds descant in blackest feather
On the rendering, grain by grain,
Of that uncouth shape to simple sod again
Through drear and dulcet weather.

Yet, shrined on her shelf, the grisly visage endured,
Despite her wrung hands, her tears, her praying: Vanish!
Steadfast and evil—starred,
It ogled through rock—fault, wind—flaw and fisted wave—
An antique hag—head, too tough for knife to finish,
Refusing to diminish
By one jot its basilisk—look of love.

In Benidorm there are melons,
Whole donkey—carts full

Of innumerable melons,
Ovals and balls,

Bright green and thumpable
Laced over with stripes

Of turtle—dark green.
Chooose an egg—shape, a world—shape,

Bowl one homeward to taste
In the whitehot noon:

Cream—smooth honeydews,
Pink—pulped whoppers,

Bump—rinded cantaloupes
With orange cores.

Each wedge wears a studding
Of blanched seeds or black seeds

To strew like confetti
Under the feet of

This market of melon—eating
Fiesta—goers.

You bring me good news from the clinic,
Whipping off your silk scarf, exhibiting the tight white
Mummy—cloths, smiling: I’m all right.
When I was nine, a lime—green anesthetist
Fed me banana gas through a frog—mask. The nauseous vault
Boomed wild bad dreams and the Jovian voices of surgeons.
The mother swam up, holding a tin basin.
O I was sick.

They’ve changed all that. Traveling
Nude as Cleopatra in my well—boiled hospital shift,
Fizzy with sedatives and unusually humorous,
I roll to an anteroom where a kind man
Fists my fingers for me. He makes me feel something precious
Is leaking from the finger—vents. At the count of two
Darkness wipes me out like chalk on a blackboard...
I don’t know a thing.

For five days I lie in secret,
Tapped like a cask, the years draining into my pillow.
Even my best friend thinks I’m in the country.
Skin doesn’t have roots, it peels away easy as paper.
When I grin, the stitches tauten. I grow backward. I’m twenty,
Broody and in long skirts on my first husband’s sofa, my fingers
Buried in the lambswool of the dead poodle;
I hadn’t a cat yet.

Now she’s done for, the dewlapped lady
I watched settle, line by line, in my mirror ——
Old sock—face, sagged on a darning egg.
They’ve trapped her in some laboratory jar.
Let her die there, or whither incessantly for the next fifty years,
Nodding and rocking and fingering her thin hair.
Mother to myself, I wake swaddled in gauze,
Pink and smooth as a baby.

This is a dark house, very big.
I made it myself,
Cell by cell from a quiet corner,
Chewing at the grey paper,
Oozing the glue drops,
Whistling, wiggling my ears,
Thinking of something else.

It has so many cellars,
Such eelish delvings!
U an round as an owl,
I see by my own light.
Any day I may litter puppies
Or mother a horse. My belly moves.
I must make more maps.

These marrowy tunnels!
Moley—handed, I eat my way.
All—mouth licks up the bushes
And the pots of meat.
He lives in an old well,
A stoney hole. He’s to blame.
He’s a fat sort.

Pebble smells, turnipy chambers.
Small nostrils are breathing.
Little humble loves!
Footlings, boneless as noses,
It is warm and tolerable
In the bowel of the root.
Here’s a cuddly mother.

Enter the chilly no—man’s land of about Five o’clock in the morning, the no—color void Where the waking head rubbishes out the draggled lot Of sulfurous dreamscapes and obscure lunar conundrums Which seemed, when dreamed, to mean so profoundly much, Gets ready to face the ready—made creation Of chairs and bureaus and sleep—twisted sheets. This is the kingdom of the fading apparition, The oracular ghost who dwindles on pin—legs To a knot of laundry, with a classic bunch of sheets Upraised, as a hand, emblematic of farewell. At this joint between two worlds and two entirely Incompatible modes of time, the raw material Of our meat—and—potato thoughts assumes the nimbus Of ambrosial revelation. And so departs. Chair and bureau are the hieroglyphs Of some godly utterance wakened heads ignore: So these posed sheets, before they thin to nothing, Speak in sign language of a lost otherworld, A world we lose by merely waking up. Trailing its telltale tatters only at the outermost Fringe of mundane vision, this ghost goes Hand aloft, goodbye, goodbye, not down Into the rocky gizzard of the earth, But toward a region where our thick atmosphere Diminishes, and God knows what is there. A point of exclamation marks that sky In ringing orange like a stellar carrot. Its round period, displaced and green, Suspends beside it the first point, the starting Point of Eden, next the new moon’s curve. Go, ghost of our mother and father, ghost of us, And ghost of our dreams’ children, in those sheets Which signify our origin and end, To the cloud—cuckoo land of color wheels And pristine alphabets and cows that moo And moo as they jump over moons as new As that crisp cusp toward which you voyage now. Hail and farewell. Hello, goodbye. O keeper Of the profane grail, the dreaming skull.

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time—
Marble—heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer—man, panzer—man, O You—

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two—
The vampire who said he was you
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.

1

Here in this valley of discrete academies
We have not mountains, but mounts, truncated hillocks
To the Adirondacks, to northern Monadnock,
Themselves mere rocky hillocks to an Everest.
Still, they’re out best mustering of height: by
Comparison with the sunnken silver—grizzled
Back of the Connecticut, the river—level
Flats of Hadley farms, they’re lofty enough
Elevations to be called something more than hills.
Green, wholly green, they stand their knobby spine
Against our sky: they are what we look southward to
Up Pleasant Street at Main. Poising their shapes
Between the snuff and red tar—paper apartments,
They mound a summer coolness in our view.

To people who live in the bottom of valleys
A rise in the landscape, hummock or hogback, looks
To be meant for climbing. A peculiar logic
In going up for the coming down if the post
We start at’s the same post we finish by,
But it’s the clear conversion at the top can hold
Us to the oblique road, in spite of a fitful
Wish for even ground, and it’s the last cliff
Ledge will dislodge out cramped concept of space, unwall
Horizons beyond vision, spill vision
After the horizons, stretching the narrowed eye
To full capacity. We climb to hopes
Of such seeing up the leaf—shuttered escarpments,
Blindered by green, under a green—grained sky

Into the blue. Tops define themselves as places
Where nothing higher’s to be looked to. Downward looks
Follow the black arrow—backs of swifts on their track
Of the air eddies’ loop and arc though air’s at rest
To us, since we see no leaf edge stir high
Here on a mount overlaid with leaves. The paint—peeled
Hundred—year—old hotel sustains its ramshackle
Four—way veranda, view—keeping above
The fallen timbers of its once remarkable
Funicular railway, witness to gone
Time, and to graces gone with the time. A state view—
Keeper collects half—dollars for the slopes
Of state scenery, sells soda, shows off viewpoints.
A ruffy skylight oaints the gray oxbow

And paints the river’s pale circumfluent stillness.
As roses broach their carmine in a mirror. Flux
Of the desultory currents ——all that unique
Stripple of shifting wave—tips is ironed out, lost
In the simplified orderings of sky—
Lorded perspectives. Maplike, the far fields are ruled
By correct green lines and no seedy free—for—all
Of asparagus heads. Cars run their suave
Colored beads on the strung roads, and the people stroll
Straightforwardly across the springing green.
All’s peace and discipline down there. Till lately we
Lived under the shadow of hot rooftops
And never saw how coolly we might move. For once
A high hush quietens the crickets’ cry.

What a thrill ——
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of a hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian’s axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz.

A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?
O my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill

The thin
Papery feeling.
Saboteur,
Kamikaze man ——

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Babushka
Darkens and tarnishes and when

The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

How you jump ——
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

Pure? What does it mean?
The tongues of hell
Are dull, dull as the triple

Tongues of dull, fat Cerebus
Who wheezes at the gate. Incapable
Of licking clean

The aguey tendon, the sin, the sin.
The tinder cries.
The indelible smell

Of a snuffed candle!
Love, love, the low smokes roll
From me like Isadora’s scarves, I’m in a fright

One scarf will catch and anchor in the wheel.
Such yellow sullen smokes
Make their own element. They will not rise,

But trundle round the globe
Choking the aged and the meek,
The weak

Hothouse baby in its crib,
The ghastly orchid
Hanging its hanging garden in the air,

Devilish leopard!
Radiation turned it white
And killed it in an hour.

Greasing the bodies of adulterers
Like Hiroshima ash and eating in.
The sin. The sin.

Darling, all night
I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.
The sheets grow heavy as a lecher’s kiss.

Three days. Three nights.
Lemon water, chicken
Water, water make me retch.

I am too pure for you or anyone.
Your body
Hurts me as the world hurts God. I am a lantern ——

My head a moon
Of Japanese paper, my gold beaten skin
Infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive.

Does not my heat astound you. And my light.
All by myself I am a huge camellia
Glowing and coming and going, flush on flush.

I think I am going up,
I think I may rise ——
The beads of hot metal fly, and I, love, I

Am a pure acetylene
Virgin
Attended by roses,

By kisses, by cherubim,
By whatever these pink things mean.
Not you, nor him.

Not him, nor him
(My selves dissolving, old whore petticoats) ——
To Paradise.

1

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.

The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.

I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.

How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.

They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

The box is only temporary.

Will they occur,
These people with torso of steel
Winged elbows and eyeholes

Awaiting masses
Of cloud to give them expression,
These super—people! –
And my baby a nail
Driven, driven in.
He shrieks in his grease

Bones nosing for distance.
And I, nearly extinct,
His three teeth cutting

Themselves on my thumb—
And the star,
The old story.

In the lane I meet sheep and wagons,
Red earth, motherly blood.
O You who eat

People like light rays, leave
This one
Mirror safe, unredeemed

By the dove’s annihilation,
The glory
The power, the glory.