Sunday, August 12, 2007



Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.

Sylvia Plath

She wrote this in late 1959 while staying at Yaddo, a retreat in northern New York. The grounds of the estate feature damp woodlots, statue gardens, ponds, and privacy. The gardens are open to the public but any attempt to get near the residences is quickly halted by groundspeople, as I myself discovered as a teenager bicycling around Saratoga Springs.

Immersed in the the works of Ted Roethke and the fertile isolation that is Yaddo, the first hints of her "Ariel" voice emerged. The terza rima she employed in her adolescent poetry is here hysterically compressed, the wordplay sardonic, and the rhythm of it all just grabs you by the seat.

And we're in.

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