Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Plath: A January Nurse


Kindness glides about my house.
Dame Kindness, she is so nice!
The blue and red jewels of her rings smoke
In the windows, the mirrors
Are filling with smiles.

What is so real as the cry of a child?
A rabbit's cry may be wilder
But it has no soul.
Sugar can cure everything, so Kindness says.
Sugar is a necessary fluid,

Its crystals a little poultice.
O kindness, kindness
Sweetly picking up pieces!
My Japanese silks, desperate butterflies,
May be pinned any minute, anesthetized.

And here you come, with a cup of tea
Wreathed in steam.
The blood jet is poetry,
There is no stopping it.
You hand me two children, two roses.

Sylvia Plath
1 February 1963

This is the second of three poems that Plath completed that Friday. The following week her doctor started her on a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. (I'm guessing Parnate.) She would take her own life shortly, dying in the early hours of Monday the 11th. During the intervening week she suffered a bizarre manic bout that kept her awake over three days straight. Dr. Horder saw her daily.

Plath and her children Nick and Frieda had all been sick with flu-like symptoms during that very cold January. Doctor Horder had arranged for a nurse to stay with them for a week to help them get better.

Though included by Ted Hughes in his preparation of Ariel and Other Poems, Plath had already pretty much finished that manuscript months earlier and probably did not intend for "Kindness" to be in it. She seemed to be on to something new.

The blood jet is poetry,
There is no stopping it.

Plath wrote several poems in which nurses and such are figured.

Kate Moses has an excellent website which includes a useful timeline of important happenings in Plath's life.

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