It is a terrible thing
To be so open: it is as if my heart
Put on a face and walked into the world.
Sylvia Plath, Three Women, 1962
Sylvia, ever lucent, ever opaque,
an incongruity, a clever imbalance
that spins collections her hounds facilitate.
Failures and fractures she bravely lanced
with noncompliance. Reader, rebuff collars
labeled as forewords, smug introductions,
for Plath’s voice is tenfold more a scholar
than those receiving undue benedictions.
Lofty beggars seek to bookend her words
and that empty space she instinctively refills
with her universe, a mayhem that girds,
unapologetic. Mirror images spill
over margins, searching for identity,
negating preamble, snubbing apathy.
Negating preamble, snubbing apathy
with language that flickers, catches, combusts,
her volumes of wicks, her lit soliloquies,
glint behind the stained-glass of trust.
There are those who are not really here,
they wander fault lines then crisscross chasms,
lost pilgrims who easily commandeer
unwary emotions. Some hearts just spasm,
pulled by their own nature, their delicacy,
for poetry is a weakness; poets die
between verses. Odes can become elegies.
The thin-skinned hear a snared rabbit cry,
and pray for the moonflower, always closing,
while cursing that page, unmoved and dozing.
While cursing that page, unmoved and dozing,
she corners rigid guides, keeps fingers poised,
synchronicity goes, the flow of typing
disappears, mislaid, that perfect noise
of a carriage return, a sound exclamation.
Joy is inspiration making its way home,
her Olivetti forages like a raven,
gifting found nouns, verbs that glare like chrome,
but love still flits, turns from hoarse requests,
and she longs for more than any man can give
for what snags worn ribbons will not rest,
it emits a strong beat, throbs as it loves.
Bless the bitter of life, all wisdom owing,
curse the open heart, its shadows showing.
Curse the open heart, its shadows showing,
for worldly delights take full advantage
of the wounded, their brokenness growing.
Everyday beauty wrings arteries, dredges
chambers with barbs, a prompt disobedient.
Fact, there’s no folder large enough to hold
elation’s girth, no ink conveniently
on hand to black out depression. So, scold
the yew, its roots and branches reaching,
then poke at petals for being complacent,
when all the while a candle is preaching
of give and take, surrender, luminance,
So, carefully archive apprehension,
revealing blue veins to tender lesions.
Revealing blue veins to tender lesions
requires much more than a room of one's own,
hours do dissolve, days lack cohesion
when milk sours and tantrums are thrown.
Solitude is in short supply, loneliness,
however, is overstocked; her mind tugs
at busy hands for attention, such darkness
contrasts to jammy smiles and sleepy hugs.
Elusive titles whimper each morning,
and short stanzas steep, so desperately,
all the while a manuscript is scorning
her swipes at dry crumbs, cold pots of tea.
A life sheds its months, gallows take delight
as sundials atrophy in the arms of night.
As sundials atrophy in the arms of night.
the moon blanches tidepools, suckles sand,
even the face of the clock is pulled too tight
and the new calendar can not understand
that writing is sex, is fresh bread, is air,
that time is a brute, quick fisted, rough,
that weeks come and go without a care
that a marriage vow is never enough
to mend adoration, repossess bliss.
Words make better lovers, rarely stray,
upon her lips, the impression of a kiss
feels as cold as sheets then melts away.
Paper sops afterbirth, accepts her all:
fossil and seed, shackles and free falls.
Fossil and seed, shackles and free falls,
unlocking visions, defying any cage,
art resists validity, upsets stone walls
to scale the scarlet heights of a rampage,
to breach the barricades to euphoria.
She excavates id, bares teeth at ego,
plays the parts of illusion and phobia
then infuses rhyme with soft indigo.
Colossus begins to shrivel as Ariel
unmans him, riding hard upon metaphors,
and will remain strong, constant, ethereal.
but curtailed are epics that still implore
like the cusp of dream long after you wake
Sylvia, ever lucent, ever opaque.
* For Craig Cornish, whose contest inspired this piece. Thank you, Daddy-O.
About this poem
This is my first crown of sonnets. It took over 25 hours to write, a full week of me-time!
These are modern sonnets and the syllable count is extremely loose, intentionally, as it would seem odd to keep things too tight when writing of Sylvia. If anything, I regret not being even looser, altering syllable counts DRAMATICALLY. Also, I used a great deal of slant rhyme for the same reason.
I really wanted to capture Sylvia Plath with this poem, and it was a real struggle. Her language is so precise, and I wanted to do her justice. I had wanted to feel, upon its completion, that Sylvia would have said, "Well, it isn't quite horrible. Not bad for a novice. And there are parts of me there, but only the smallest bits." I do not feel I did this. I feel like I didn't even TOUCH her mastery of language. But, it is good enough for now.. one day, who knows?
Oh, Sylvia's typewriter was a Olivetti Lettera 22. It was portable!