A Birthday Present (Excerpt)
What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?
I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is just what I want.
When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking.
"Is this the one I am to appear for,
Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar?
Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus,
Adhering to rules, to rules, to rules.
Is this the one for the annunciation?
My god, what a laugh!"
The Applicant (Excerpt)
First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch
Stitches to show something's missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand ...
Stasis in darkness.
Then the substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances.
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees!–The furrow
Splits and passes, sister to
The brown arc
Of the neck I cannot catch,
Berries cast dark
Black sweet blood mouthfuls,
Hauls me through air–
Flakes from my heels. . .
The Arrival of the Bee Box (Excerpt)
... The box is locked, it is dangerous,
I have to live with it overnight
And I can't keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can't see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit ...
...Invisible air drifts,
Giving a shriek and pop
When attacked, the scooting to rest, barely trembling/
Yellow cathead, blue fish—
Such queer moons we live with...
The Bee Meeting (Excerpt)
... Is it some operation that is taking place?
It is the surgeon my neightbours are waiting for,
This apparition in a green helmet,
Shining gloves and white suit.
Is it the butcher, the grocer, the postman, someone I know?
I cannot run, I am rooted, and the gorse hurts me
With its yellow purses, its spiky armoury.
I could not run without having to run forever ...
Berick Plage (Excerpt)
This is the sea, then, this great abeyance.
How the sun's poultice draws on my inflammation.
Electrifyingly-coloured sherbets, scooped from the freeze
By pale girls, travel the air in scorched hands
Why is it so quiet, what are they hiding?
I have two legs, and I move smilingly ...
Colour floods to the spot, dull purple.
The rest of the body is all washed out,
The colour of pearl.
In a pit of rock
The sea sucks obsessively,
One hollow the whole sea's pivot ...
The Couriers (Excerpt)
... Frost on a leaf, the immaculate
Cauldron, talking and crackling
All to itself on the top of each
Of nine black Alps ...
....Whose side are they on?
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill
Kamikaze man ---
The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Darkens and tarnishes and when....
...You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do...
Death & Co (Excerpt)
... Frill at the neck,
Then the flutings of their Ionian
Then two little feet.
He does not smile or smoke.
The other does that,
His hair long and plausive.
Masturbating a glitter,
He wants to be loved ...
... Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden ...
... Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it.
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse.
All night I shall gallop thus, impetuously,
Till your head is a stone, your pillow a little turf,
Echoing, echoing ...
Fever 103° (Excerpt)
... 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 ...
Getting There (Excerpt)
... I am dragging my body
Quietly through the straw of the boxcars.
Now is the time for bribery,
What do wheels eat, these wheels
Fixed to their arcs like gods,
The silver leash of the will—
Inexorable. And their pride! ...
... How they hate you.
They converse in the valley of your fingers, they are inchworms.
They would have you sleep in their cabinets,
This toe and that toe, a relic.
Step off seven leagues ...
The Hanging Man (Excerpt)
... A vulturous boredome pinned me in this tree.
If he were I, he would do what I did.
Kindness glives 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...
Lady Lazarus (Excerpt)
....Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls...
... O jewel! O valuable!
That night the moon
Dragged its blood bag, sick
Up over the harbor lights.
And then grew normal,
Hard and apart and white.
The scale-sheen on the sand scared me to death.
We kept picking up handfuls, loving it,
Working it like dough, a mulatto body,
The silk grits.
A dog picked up your doggy husband. He went on ...
Letter in November (Excerpt)
Love, the world
Suddenly turns, turns colour. The streetlight
Splits through the rat's-tail
Pods of the laburnum at nine in the morning.
It is the Arctic,
This little black
Circle, with its tawn silk grasses—babies' hair.
There is a green in the air,
It cushions me lovingly.
I am flushed and warm.
I think I may be enormous,
I am so stupidly happy,
Squelching and squelching through the beautiful red ...
Little Fugue (Excerpt)
... He could hear Beethoven :
Black yew, white cloud,
The horrific complications.
Finger-traps–a tumult of keys.
Empty and silly as plates,
So the blind smile.
I envy the big noises,
The yew hedge of the Grosse Fuge.
Deafness is something else ...
Mary's Song (Excerpt)
The Sunday lamb cracks in its fat.
Scrifices its opacity . . . .
A window, holy gold
The fire makes it precious,
The same fire
Melting the tallow heretics,
Ousting the Jews.
Their thick palls float
Over the cicatrix of Poland, burnt-out
They do not die.
... Did I escape, I wonder?
My mind winds to you
Old barnacled umbilicus, Atlantic cable,
Keeping itself, it seems, in a state of miraculous repair.
In any case, you are always there,
Tremulous breath at the end of my line,
Curve of water upleaping
To my ater rod, dazzling and grateful,
Touching and sucking ...
The Moon and the Yew Tree (Excerpt)
This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place.
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.
Morning Song (Excerpt)
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety...
Munich Mannequins (Excerpt)
... O the domescticity of these windows,
The baby lace, the green-leaved confectionery,
The thick Germans slumbering in their bottomless Stolz.
And the black phones on hooks
Glittering and digesting
Voicelessness. The snow has no voice.
Nick and the Candlestick (Excerpt)
I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Drip and thicken, tears
The earthen womb
Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs
Wrap me, raggy shawls,
They weld to me like plums ...
The Night Dances (Excerpt)
... The comets
Have such a space to cross,
Such coldness, forgetfulness,
So your gestures flake off—
Warm and humanm then their pink light
Bleeding and peeling
Through the black amnesias of heaven ...
... Two girls
As flat as she, who whisper "We're your daughters."
The still waters
Wrap my lips,
Eyes, nose and ears,
Cellophane I cannot crack.
On my bare back
I smile, a buddha, all
Falling from me like rings
Hugging their lights ...
Poppies in July (Excerpt)
Little poppies, little hell flames,
Do you do no harm?
You flicker. I cannot touch you.
I put my hands among the flames. Nothing burns.
And it exhausts me to watch you
Flickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth ...
Poppies in October (Excerpt)
... A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky
Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers ...
The Rival (Excerpt)
... And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to amausoleum; you are here,
Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes,
Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say something unanswerable.
The moon, too, abases her subjects,
But in the daytime she is ridiculous ...
Sheep in Fog (Excerpt)
... Hooves, dolorous bells—
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,
A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart ...
... It is almost over.
I am in control.
Here is my honey-machine,
It will work without thinking,
Opening, in spring, like an industrious virgin
To scour the creaming crests
As the moon, for its ivory powders, scours the sea.
A third person is watching.
He has nothing to do with the bee-seller or with me.
Now he is gone ...
The Swarm (Excerpt)
... The bees argue, in their black ball,
A flying hedgehog, all prickles.
The man with grey hands stands under the honeycomb
Of their dream. the hived station
Where trains, faithful to their steel arcs,
Leave and arrive, and there is no end to the country.
Pom! Pom! They fall
Dismembered, to a tod of ivy.
So much for the charioteers, the outrider, the Grand Army!
A red tatter, Napoleon! ...
... White towers of Smithfield ahead,
Fat haunches and blood on their minds.
There is no mercy in the glitter of cleavers,
The butcher's guillotine that whispers: "Thow's this, how's this?"
In the bowl the hare is aborted,
Its baby head out of the way, embalmed in spice ...
...I didn’t want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free——
The peacefulness is so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing, a name tag, a few trinkets.
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet...
... This is the room I have never been in.
This is the room I could never breathe in.
The black bunched in there like a bat,
But the torch and its faint
Chinese yellow on appalling objects—
Black asininity. Decay.
It is they who own me.
Neither cruel nor indifferent,
This is the time of hanging on for the bees–the bees
So slow I hardly know them,
Filing like soldiers
To the syrup tin ...
... Years later I
Encounter them on the road—
Words dry and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof-taps.
From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.
They enter as animals from the outer
Space of holly where spikes
Are not the thoughts I turn on, like a Yogi,
But greenness, darkness so pure
They freeze and are.
O God, I am not like you
In your vacuous black,
Stars stuck all over, bright stupid confetti
Eternity bores me,
I never wanted it ...
... Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools' Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf ...
- Sylvia Plath