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Sylvia plath

Sylvia Plath

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
48

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.

It is a chilly god, a god of shades,
 Rises to the glass from his black fathoms.
 At the window, those unborn, those undone
 Assemble with the frail paleness of moths,
 An envious phosphorescence in their wings.
 Vermilions, bronzes, colors of the sun
 In the coal fire will not wholly console them.
 Imagine their deep hunger, deep as the dark
 For the blood—heat that would ruddle or reclaim.
 The glass mouth sucks blood—heat from my forefinger.
 The old god dribbles, in return, his words.

 The old god, too, writes aureate poetry
 In tarnished modes, maundering among the wastes,
 Fair chronicler of every foul declension.
 Age, and ages of prose, have uncoiled
 His talking whirlwind, abated his excessive temper
 When words, like locusts, drummed the darkening air
 And left the cobs to rattle, bitten clean.
 Skies once wearing a blue, divine hauteur
 Ravel above us, mistily descend,
 Thickening with motes, to a marriage with the mire.

 He hymns the rotten queen with saffron hair
 Who has saltier aphrodisiacs
 Than virgins’ tears. That bawdy queen of death,
 Her wormy couriers are at his bones.
 Still he hymns juice of her, hot nectarine.
 I see him, horny—skinned and tough, construe
 What flinty pebbles the ploughblade upturns
 As ponderable tokens of her love.
 He, godly, doddering, spells
 No succinct Gabriel from the letters here
 But floridly, his amorous nostalgias.

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

Hearing a white saint rave
About a quintessential beauty
Visible only to the paragon heart,
I tried my sight on an apple-tree
That for eccentric knob and wart
Had all my love.

Without meat or drink I sat
Starving my fantasy down
To discover that metaphysical Tree which hid
From my worldling look its brilliant vein
Far deeper in gross wood
Than axe could cut.

But before I might blind sense
To see with the spotless soul,
Each particular quirk so ravished me
Every pock and stain bulked more beautiful
Than flesh of any body
Flawed by love’s prints.

Battle however I would
To break through that patchwork
Of leaves’ bicker and whisk in babel tongues,
Streak and mottle of tawn bark,
No visionary lightnings
Pierced my dense lid.

Instead, a wanton fit
Dragged each dazzled sense apart
Surfeiting eye, ear, taste, touch, smell;
Now, snared by this miraculous art,
I ride earth’s burning carrousel
Day in, day out,

And such grit corrupts my eyes
I must watch sluttish dryads twitch
Their multifarious silks in the holy grove
Until no chaste tree but suffers blotch
Under flux of those seductive
Reds, greens, blues.

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.

This is winter, this is night, small love ——
A sort of black horsehair,
A rough, dumb country stuff
Steeled with the sheen
Of what green stars can make it to our gate.
I hold you in my arm.
It is very late.
The dull bells tongue the hour.
The mirror floats us at one candle power.

This is the fluid in which we meet each other,
This haloey radiance that seems to breathe
And lets our shadows wither
Only to blow
Them huge again, violent giants on the wall.
One match scratch makes you real.
At first the candle will not bloom at all ——
It snuffs its bud to almost nothing, to a dull blue dud.

I hold my breath until you creak to life,
Balled hedgehog,
Small and cross. The yellow knife
Grows tall. You clutch your bars.
My singing makes you roar.
I rock you like a boat
Across the Indian carpet, the cold floor,
While the brass man
Kneels, back bent as best he can

Hefting his white pillar with the light
That keeps the sky at bay,
The sack of black! It is everywhere, tight, tight!
He is all yours, the little brassy Atlas ——
Poor heirloom, all you have
At his heels a pile of five brass cannonballs,
No child, no wife.
Five balls! Five bright brass balls!
To juggle with, my love when the sky falls.

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.

How the elements solidify! ——
The moonlight, that chalk cliff
In whose rift we lie

Back to back. I hear an owl cry
From its cold indigo.
Intolerable vowels enter my heart.

The child in the white crib revolves and sighs,
Opens its mouth now, demanding.
His little face is carved in pained, red wood.

Then there are the stars —ineradicable, hard.
One touch: it burns and sickens.
I cannot see your eyes.

Where apple bloom ices the night
I walk in a ring,
A groove of old faults, deep and bitter.

Love cannot come here.
A black gap discloses itself.
On the opposite lip

A small white soul is waving, a small white maggot.
My limbs, also, have left me.
Who has dismembered us?

The dark is melting. We touch like cripples.

I thought that I could not be hurt;
I thought that I must surely be
impervious to suffering—
immune to pain
or agony.

My world was warm with April sun
my thoughts were spangled green and gold;
my soul filled up with joy, yet
felt the sharp, sweet pain that only joy
can hold.

My spirit soared above the gulls
that, swooping breathlessly so high
o’erhead, now seem to to brush their whir—
ring wings against the blue roof of
the sky.

(How frail the human heart must be—
a throbbing pulse, a trembling thing—
a fragile, shining instrument
of crystal, which can either weep,
or sing.)

Then, suddenly my world turned gray,
and darkness wiped aside my joy.
A dull and aching void was left
where careless hands had reached out to
destroy

my silver web of happiness.
The hands then stopped in wonderment,
for, loving me, they wept to see
the tattered ruins of my firma—
ment

(How frail the human heart must be—
a mirrored pool of thought. So deep
and tremulous an instrument
of glass that it can either sing,
or weep).

Ravening through the persistent bric-à-brac
Of blunt pencils, rose-sprigged coffee cup,
Postage stamps, stacked books’ clamor and yawp,
Neighborhood cockcrow —all nature’s prodigal backtalk,
     The vaunting mind
     Snubs impromptu spiels of wind
     And wrestles to impose
     Its own order on what is.

‘With my fantasy alone,' brags the importunate head,
Arrogant among rook-tongued spaces,
Sheep greens, finned falls, 'I shall compose a crisis
To stun sky black out, drive gibbering mad
     Trout, cock, ram,
     That bulk so calm
     On my jealous stare,
     Self-sufficient as they are.’

But no hocus-pocus of green angels
Damasks with dazzle the threadbare eye;
‘My trouble, doctor, is: I see a tree,
And that damn scrupulous tree won’t practice wiles
     To beguile sight:
     E.g., by cant of light
     Concoct a Daphne;
     My tree stays tree.

‘However I wrench obstinate bark and trunk
To my sweet will, no luminous shape
Steps out radiant in limb, eye, lip,
To hoodwink the honest earth which pointblank
     Spurns such fiction
     As nymphs; cold vision
     Will have no counterfeit
     Palmed off on it.

‘No doubt now in dream-propertied rail some moon-eyed,
Star-lucky sleight-of-hand man watches
My jilting lady squander coin, gold leaf stock ditches,
And the opulent air go studded with seed,
     While this beggared brain
     Hatches no fortune,
     But from leaf, from grass,
     Thieves what it has.’

He was the bullman earlierm
King of the dish, my lucky animal.
Breathing was easy in his airy holding.
The sun sat in his armpit.
Nothing went moldy. The little invisibles
Waited on him hand and foot.
The blue sisters sent me to another school.
Monkey lived under the dunce cap.
He kept blowing me kisses.
I hardly knew him.

He won’t be got rid of:
Memblepaws, teary and sorry,
Fido Littlesoul, the bowel’s unfamiliar.
A dustbin’s enough for him.
The dark’s his bone.
Call him any name, he’ll come to it.

Mud—sump, happy sty face.
I’ve married a cupboard of rubbish.
I bed in a fish puddle.
Down here the sky is always falling.
Hogwallow’s at the window.
The star bugs won’t save me this mouth.
I housekeep in Time’s gut—end
Among emmets and mollusks,
Duchess of Nothing,
Hairtusk’s bride.

A Villanelle

The sting of bees took away my father
who walked in a swarming shroud of wings
and scorned the tick of the falling weather.

Lightning licked in a yellow lather
but missed the mark with snaking fangs:
the sting of bees too away my father.

Trouncing the sea like a ragin bather,
he rode the flood in a pride of prongs
and scorned the tick of the falling weather.

A scowl of sun struck down my mother,
tolling her grave with golden gongs,
but the sting of bees took away my father.

He counted the guns of god a bother,
laughed at the ambush of angels’ tongues,
and scorned the tick of the falling weather.

O ransack the four winds and find another
man who can mangle the grin of kings:
the sting of bees took away my father
who scorned the tick of the falling weather.