Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Plath: Her Next to Last


Since Christmas they have lived with us,
Guileless and clear,
Oval soul-animals,
Taking up half the space,
Moving and rubbing on the silk

Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, then scooting to rest, barely trembling.
Yellow cathead, blue fish--------
Such queer moons we live with

Instead of dead furniture!
Straw mats, white walls
And these traveling
Globes of thin air, red, green,

The heart like wishes or free
Peacocks blessing
Old ground with a feather
Beaten in starry metals.
Your small

Brother is making
His balloon squeak like a cat.
Seeming to see
A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,
He bites,

Then sits
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water.
A red
Shred in his little fist.

5 February 1963

Sylvia Plath

She died a few days later on February 11th. London was in a freeze. She was alone with her children living at 23 Fitzroy Road where Y.B. Yeats had once lived.

Her moods were probably cycling extremely... that is my surmise, and I show this poem as an example of just that. At any rate, I am probably not the only reader to consider that Balloons is rather detached from what Plath was likely going through at that time.

But the image of a balloon presumably popping in the face of the brother (almost-three Frieda's younger sibling, one-year-old Nick,) is oddly prescient, as Plath herself was soon to enter that pink world on the other side, so to speak.

Her last poem, an astonishing description of a female corpse, Edge, was written later that same day. That's why I think her moods were ranging widely and likely very unstable.

I doubt that Plath's estranged husband Ted Hughes understood the severity of this until much later in his life

Neither Balloons nor Ted's choice as ultimate poem, Words, appeared in Plath's working version of the Ariel collection she was compiling at the time of her death. She had chosen one of the incredible "bee poems," the literally sweet Wintering, which ends on the word "love."

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