Friday, May 26, 2006

Tristan und Isolde

My goodness, how the months go by. The days are long and stressful, but the seasons fly away like sparrows chased by the housecats.

In an instant gone.

So again it happens that school is out for summer, and you, a parent, a grandparent, a friend picking up the child of a friend, whatever... there they are, chatting away in a frenzy of young concerns about summer plans, or no plans at all, same thing, really, in the rear of your vehicle, and maybe you have a little bit of a headache. It's probably the sun. You take a long cool draw on your frosty Starbucks but nothing gets better.

You hate "talking to the box" but the young ones insist and at the drive-thru they order, via your adult voice and filter of knowing better, enough fully hydrogenated fatty acids to sink a Wagner opera, already saturated with full-blown high voices and drama like the ER on a holiday weekend night, like the controlled chaos of the telemetry unit.

Dramatic sopranos scream as you order them fries.

Kids. Sheesh.

You skirt the highway and go back through the neighborhoods, admiring the fruit trees and old architecture of the homes there. Citrus oils perfume the air.

While you drive a hand slips around your throat from behind, a large menacing hand, not the grip of one of the little children in the seats behind you. Then a blade is neatly drawn across the front of your neck, throat slit, circulation to the brain severed, and all goes dim as at the end of a long but satisfying narrative.

Mad Girl's Love Song

By Sylvia Plath
"I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell's fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan's men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you'd return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)"

Strangely this poem does not appear in Ted Hughes' collection of Sylvia Plath's "complete" poems, but to many people it is quite familiar as it shows up in the end-notes to "The Bell Jar" in American editions.

What have we to fear the most? Is it love? Not death?

I fear neither.

I think about both daily.

It's the structure, man, a villanelle, the way it all hangs together. It's like, dude, totally old, like before a freakin sonnet or something. Hey, here's a note... Dude, *duck!*

Note to self: Duck!


may said...

man,this is deep stuff! for a simple minded woman like me, everything that makes sense in this post sounds terrific, but because i have very limited number of brain cells to digest it, i must confess i don't totally get it. explain in layman's term? please?

shrimplate said...

May, thanks for stopping by.

Sometimes life just throws different things at you, like death, love, family, poetry, and these all dance about without maybe seeming to "make sense" and most of the time I think "sense" doesn't "make any sense" anymore anyways.

But it's all gravy. Life is good.

Things that are unrelated, like Plath poetry and picking up kids from school and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, all jumbled together, remind me of *life* and this makes me happy.

may said...

well. i did think it meant that, but i didn't want to assume. this is why poetry does not really get into me, i cannot totally grasp it, and it is so subjective. prose is so straightforward and clear, i just think everybody digs it, even if they don't care about it. poetry....well, you have to have passion for it before you totally sort of get it. but then, since it is so subjective, who knows what the writer has in mind really?

thanks for taking time to elaborate. appreciate it.

shrimplate said...

There you have it, May, probably the neatest distinction between poetry and prose that I have ever read.

Even "what the writer has in mind" doesn't really count in poetry horseshoes. That's one of the things I have always appreciated about it.

Same thing goes for music, especially when there are no lyrics to provide aesthetic clues.

Sheesh, you're good, dudette. You be sharp!

Lily said...

Well sir, dare you juxtapose.

I had to comment today because oddly enough the first blog-conversation we ever had (At Consider the Boot, although it might have been called Lily then) was about Plath and Hughes and whether we should read Hughes. I beleive it was in my post about feminists and artistic boycotts. I like Hughes, and you seemed to feel that we should read him.

"Mad Girl's Love Song" remains one of my favorites. I know the Ariel poems have received the most acclaim, but every now and then I prefer 'Winter Trees' and some early work. I recall that I enjoyed your comments on both Plath and Hughes those many months ago.

As happens with cosmic synchronicity, I was also listening to Wagner a few days ago (but cannot claim to understand it). The mind fills in,tells the story, not as libretto but the story as I recall it. Tristan and Isolde's story is an interesting one. I wonder about your connections between love, madness, and the very necessary way that the inner mind must quiet against the backdrop of the everyday... the ordinary... the drive through.

Doesn't get much more ordinary than that.

Lily said...

Oh- And Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure! Good too! Lest I dwell on the hoity-toity! HA

shrimplate said...

Elizabeth, I didn't immediately recall the web-con we had until you brought yp the Plath/Hughes bit.

I still like Hughes but I go back to Plath about ten times more often than I go to his work.

You mention Winter Trees. "By Candlelight" is one of may favorites from that.

I've always liked Plath's "baby poems," like "Child" (also from W.T.) and of course "You're" and the sweet "Nick and the Candlestick" in Ariel.

Thanks for stopping by, dudette.