Sylvia Plath - Advanced Higher Selection


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Sylvia Plath - Advanced Higher Selection

  1. 1. Sylvia PlathPoems for Advanced Higher
  2. 2. Sleep in the Mojave DesertOut here there are no hearthstones,Hot grains, simply. It is dry, dry.And the air dangerous. Noonday acts queerlyOn the minds eye, erecting a lineOf poplars in the middle distance, the onlyObject beside the mad, straight roadOne can remember men and houses by.A cool wind should inhabit those leavesAnd a dew collect on them, dearer than money,In the blue hour before sunup.Yet they recede, untouchable as tomorrow,Or those glittery fictions of spilt waterThat glide ahead of the very thirsty.I think of the lizards airing their tonguesIn the crevice of an extremely small shadowAnd the toad guarding his hearts droplet.The desert is white as a blind mans eye,Comfortless as salt. Snake and birdDoze behind the old masks of fury.We swelter like firedogs in the wind.The sun puts its cinder out. Where we lieThe heat-cracked crickets congregateIn their black armorplate and cry.The day-moon lights up like a sorry mother,And the crickets come creeping into our hairTo fiddle the short night away.5 July 1960
  3. 3. Two Campers in Cloud Country (Rock Lake, Canada)In this country there is neither measure nor balanceTo redress the dominance of rocks and woods,The passage, say, of these man-shaming clouds.No gesture of yours or mine could catch their attention,No word make them carry water or fire the kindlingLike local trolls in the spell of a superior being.Well, one wearies of the Public Gardens: one wants a vacationWhere trees and clouds and animals pay no notice;Away from the labeled elms, the tame tea-roses.It took three days driving north to find a cloudThe polite skies over Boston couldnt possibly accommodate.Here on the last frontier of the big, brash spiritThe horizons are too far off to be chummy as uncles;The colors assert themselves with a sort of vengeance.Each day concludes in a huge splurge of vermilionsAnd night arrives in one gigantic step.It is comfortable, for a change, to mean so little.These rocks offer no purchase to herbage or people:They are conceiving a dynasty of perfect cold.In a month well wonder what plates and forks are for.I lean to you, numb as a fossil. Tell me Im here.The Pilgrims and Indians might never have happened.Planets pulse in the lake like bright amoebas;The pines blot our voices up in their lightest sighs.Around our tent the old simplicities soughSleepily as Lethe, trying to get in.Well wake blank-brained as water in the dawn.July 1960
  4. 4. Morning SongLove set you going like a fat gold watch.The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cryTook its place among the elements.Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.In a drafty museum, your nakednessShadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.Im no more your motherThan the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slowEffacement at the winds hand.All night your moth-breathFlickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:A far sea moves in my ear.One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floralIn my Victorian nightgown.Your mouth opens clean as a cats. The window squareWhitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you tryYour handful of notes;The clear vowels rise like balloons.19 February 1961
  5. 5. Wuthering HeightsThe horizons ring me like faggots,Tilted and disparate, and always unstable.Touched by a match, they might warm me,And their fine lines singeThe air to orangeBefore the distances they pin evaporate,Weighting the pale sky with a solider color.But they only dissolve and dissolveLike a series of promises, as I step forward.There is no life higher than the grasstopsOr the hearts of sheep, and the windPours by like destiny, bendingEverything in one direction.I can feel it tryingTo funnel my heat away.If I pay the roots of the heatherToo close attention, they will invite meTo whiten my bones among them.The sheep know where they are,Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,Gray as the weather.The black slots of their pupils take me in.It is like being mailed into space,A thin, silly message.They stand about in grandmotherly disguise,All wig curls and yellow teethAnd hard, marbly baas.I come to wheel ruts, and waterLimpid as the solitudesThat flee through my fingers.Hollow doorsteps go from grass to grass;Lintel and sill have unhinged themselves.Of people the air onlyRemembers a few odd syllables.It rehearses them moaningly:Black stone, black stone.The sky leans on me, me, the one uprightAmong all horizontals.The grass is beating its head distractedly.It is too delicateFor a life in such company;Darkness terrifies it.Now, in valleys narrowAnd black as purses, the house lightsGleam like small change.September 1961
  6. 6. BlackberryingNobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a seaSomewhere at the end of it, heaving. BlackberriesBig as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyesEbon in the hedges, fatWith blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.They accommodate themselves to my milk bottle, flattening their sides.Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocksBits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.I do not think the sea will appear at all.The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.The only thing to come now is the sea.From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings meTo the hills northern face, and the face is orange rockThat looks out on nothing, nothing but a great spaceOf white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmithsBeating and beating at an intractable metal.23 September 1961
  7. 7. MirrorI am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.Whatever I see I swallow immediatelyJust as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.I am not cruel, only truthful-The eye of a little god, four-cornered.Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so longI think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.Faces and darkness separate us over and over.Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,Searching my reaches for what she really is.Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.I am important to her. She comes and goes.Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old womanRises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.23 October 1961
  8. 8. PheasantYou said you would kill it this morning.Do not kill it. It startles me still,The jut of that odd, dark head, pacingThrough the uncut grass on the elms hill.It is something to own a pheasant,Or just to be visited at all.I am not mystical: it isntAs if I thought it had a spirit.It is simply in its element.That gives it a kingliness, a right.The print of its big foot last winter,The tail-track, on the snow in our court-The wonder of it, in that pallor,Through crosshatch of sparrow and starling.Is it its rareness, then? It is rare.But a dozen would be worth having,A hundred, on that hill - green and red,Crossing and recrossing: a fine thing!It is such a good shape, so vivid.Its a little cornucopia.It unclaps, brown as a leaf, and loud,Settles in the elm, and is easy.It was sunning in the narcissi.I trespass stupidly. Let be, let be.7 April 1962
  9. 9. Poppies in JulyLittle 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 youFlickering like that, wrinkly and clear red, like the skin of a mouth.A mouth just bloodied.Little bloody skirts !There are fumes that I cannot touch.Where are your opiates, your nauseous capsules?If I could bleed, or sleep! ---If my mouth could marry a hurt like that!Or your liquors seep to me, in this glass capsule,Dulling and stilling.But colorless. Colorless.20 July 1962
  10. 10. The Arrival of the Bee BoxI ordered this, this clean wood boxSquare as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.I would say it was the coffin of a midgetOr a square babyWere there not such a din in it.The box is locked, it is dangerous.I have to live with it overnightAnd I cant keep away from it.There are no windows, so I cant see what is in there.There is only a little grid, no exit.I put my eye to the grid. It is dark, dark,With the swarmy feeling of African handsMinute and shrunk for export,Black on black, angrily clambering.How can I let them out?It is the noise that appalls me most of all,The unintelligible syllables.It is like a Roman mob,Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!I lay my ear to furious Latin.I am not a Caesar.I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.They can be sent back.They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.I wonder how hungry they are.I wonder if they would forget meIf I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,And the petticoats of the cherry.They might ignore me immediatelyIn my moon suit and funeral veil.I am no source of honeySo why should they turn on me?Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.The box is only temporary.4 October 1962
  11. 11. DaddyYou do not do, you do not do I have always been scared of you,Any more, black shoe With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.In which I have lived like a foot And your neat mustacheFor thirty years, poor and white, And your Aryan eye, bright blue.Barely daring to breathe or Achoo. Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You---Daddy, I have had to kill you. Not God but a swastikaYou died before I had time --- So black no sky could squeak through.Marble-heavy, a bag full of God, Every woman adores a Fascist,Ghastly statue with one gray toe The boot in the face, the bruteBig as a Frisco seal Brute heart of a brute like you.And a head in the freakish Atlantic You stand at the blackboard, daddy,Where it pours bean green over blue In the picture I have of you,In the waters off beautiful Nauset. A cleft in your chin instead of your footI used to pray to recover you. But no less a devil for that, no notAch, du. Any less the black man whoIn the German tongue, in the Polish town Bit my pretty red heart in two.Scraped flat by the roller I was ten when they buried you.Of wars, wars, wars. At twenty I tried to dieBut the name of the town is common. And get back, back, back to you.My Polack friend I thought even the bones would do.Says there are a dozen or two. But they pulled me out of the sack,So I never could tell where you And they stuck me together with glue.Put your foot, your root, And then I knew what to do.I never could talk to you. I made a model of you,The tongue stuck in my jaw. A man in black with a Meinkampf lookIt stuck in a barb wire snare. And a love of the rack and the screw.Ich, ich, ich, ich, And I said I do, I do.I could hardly speak. So daddy, Im finally through.I thought every German was you. The black telephones off at the root,And the language obscene The voices just cant worm through.An engine, an engine If Ive killed one man, Ive killed two---Chuffing me off like a Jew. The vampire who said he was youA Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen. And drank my blood for a year,I began to talk like a Jew. Seven years, if you want to know.I think I may well be a Jew. Daddy, you can lie back now.The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Theres a stake in your fat black heartVienna And the villagers never liked you.Are not very pure or true. They are dancing and stamping on you.With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck They always knew it was you.And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack Daddy, daddy, you bastard, Im through.I may be a bit of a Jew. 12 October 1962
  12. 12. MedusaOff that landspit of stony mouth-plugs,Eyes rolled by white sticks,Ears cupping the seas incoherences,You house your unnerving head -God-ball,Lens of mercies,Your stoogesPlying their wild cells in my keels shadow,Pushing by like hearts,Red stigmata at the very center,Riding the rip tide to the nearest point of departure,Dragging their Jesus hair.Did I escape, I wonder?My mind winds to youOld 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 upleapingTo my water rod, dazzling and grateful,Touching and sucking.I didnt call you.I didnt call you at all.Nevertheless, neverthelessYou steamed to me over the sea,Fat and red, a placentaParalysing the kicking lovers.Cobra lightSqueezing the breath from the blood bellsOf the fuchsia. I could draw no breath,Dead and moneyless,Overexposed, like an X-ray.Who do you think you are?A Communion wafer? Blubbery Mary?I shall take no bite of your body,Bottle in which I live,Ghastly Vatican.I am sick to death of hot salt.Green as eunuchs, your wishesHiss at my sins.Off, off, eely tentacle!There is nothing between us.16 October 1962
  13. 13. ArielStasis in darkness.Then the substanceless bluePour of tor and distances.Gods lioness,How one we grow,Pivot of heels and knees! - The furrowSplits and passes, sister toThe brown arcOf the neck I cannot catch,Nigger-eyeBerries cast darkHooks--Black sweet blood mouthfuls,Shadows.Something elseHauls me through air -–Thighs, hair;Flakes from my heels.WhiteGodiva, I unpeel--Dead hands, dead stringencies.And now IFoam to wheat, a glitter of seas.The childs cryMelts in the wall.And IAm the arrow,The dew that fliesSuicidal, at one with the driveInto the redEye, the cauldron of morning.27 October 1962
  14. 14. Lady LazarusI have done it again. Is an art, like everything else.One year in every ten I do it exceptionally well.I manage it-- I do it so it feels like hell.A sort of walking miracle, my skin I do it so it feels real.Bright as a Nazi lampshade, I guess you could say Ive a call.My right foot Its easy enough to do it in a cell.A paperweight, Its easy enough to do it and stay put.My face a featureless, fine Its the theatricalJew linen. Comeback in broad dayPeel off the napkin To the same place, the same face, theO my enemy. same bruteDo I terrify?-- Amused shout:The nose, the eye pits, the full set of ‘A miracle!’teeth? That knocks me outThe sour breath There is a chargeWill vanish in a day. For the eyeing of the scars, there is aSoon, soon the flesh chargeThe grave cave ate will be For the hearing of my heart—At home on me It really goes.And I a smiling woman. And there is a charge, a very largeI am only thirty. chargeAnd like the cat I have nine times to die. For a word or a rouch Or a bit of bloodThis is Number Three.What a trash Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.To annihilate each decade. So, so Herr Doktor. So, Herr Enemy.What a million filaments.The peanut-crunching crowd I am your opus,Shoves in to see I am your valuable, The pure gold babyThem unwrap me hand and foot—The big strip tease. That melts to a shriek.Gentlemen, ladies I turn and burn. Do not think I underestimate your greatThese are my hands concern.My knees.I may be skin and bone, Ash, ash— You poke and stir.Nevertheless, I am the same, identical Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—woman.The first time it happened I was ten. A cake of soap,It was an accident. A wedding ring,The second time I meant A gold filling.To last it out and not come back at all.I rocked shut Herr God, Herr Lucifer BewareAs a seashell. Beware.They had to call and callAnd pick the worms off me like sticky Out of the ashpearls. I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air. 23-29 October 1962Dying
  15. 15. Winter TreesThe wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.On their blotter of fog the treesSeem a botanical drawing-Memories growing, ring on ring,A series of weddings.Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery,Truer than women,They seed so effortlessly!Tasting the winds, that are footless,Waist-deep in history-Full of wings, otherworldliness.In this, they are Ledas.O mother of leaves and sweetnessWho are these pietas?The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but easing nothing.26 November 1962
  16. 16. WordsAxesAfter whose stroke the wood rings,And the echoes!Echoes travelingOff from the center like horses.The sapWells like tears, like theWater strivingTo re-establish its mirrorOver the rockThat drops and turns,A white skull,Eaten by weedy greens.Years later IEncounter them on the road--Words dry and riderless,The indefatigable hoof-taps.WhileFrom the bottom of the pool, fixed starsGovern a life.1 February 1963
  17. 17. EdgeThe woman is perfected.Her deadBody wears the smile of accomplishment,The illusion of a Greek necessityFlows in the scrolls of her toga,Her bareFeet seem to be saying:We have come so far, it is over.Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,One at each littlePitcher of milk, now empty.She has foldedThem back into her body as petalsOf a rose close when the gardenStiffens and odors bleedFrom the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.The moon has nothing to be sad about,Staring from her hood of bone.She is used to this sort of thing.Her blacks crackle and drag.5 February 1963