Sorry Sylvia (Plath)


Sitting at the state library,
that great bunker for truant nerds
and the elderly.

At the next table
in between text messages,
status updates
and instagram likes
a table of private school uniforms
are preparing one more essay on Sylvia Plath.

Dutifully copying out details of
the dissected wreckage of her life,
finding among the bones and coffin splinters,
the pretence of our knowing,
the hermeneutics of the blood,
the black shoe,
and the gas oven hiss.
And all of this is done for ticks in boxes,
for ‘well dones’,
and ‘good to see you did your research’,
and dumb grades.

Could you imagine this Sylvia?
That this is what we would do to you?

That high school teachers
would keep dragging you out of the ground,
and laying your bones out for inspection,
looking for symptom,
and signifier,
pretending like we could ever know
what you looked like on the inside of your skin.

We are the boot in the face.
We are fat seals barking commands,
dumb throated and dead.

And then one of them reads aloud to the others:

At twenty I tried to die
and get back, back, back to you.

And they fall quiet.
And the spine of this poem breaks.

These young Molotov bomb minds,
with their angry lash,
their razors,
and their suicide plunge poems
they are made knowing you.
They don’t need to see your bones
to know what you knew.

They know the brutal tyranny of skin.
They know the bite and swallow of the mirror.

And though we try to drown it out of them
raising old women in their place,
they know you.

In their bones,
they know you.

-with acknowledgement that this poem directly incorporates certain lines and metaphors directly from Plath’s work

115 thoughts on “Sorry Sylvia (Plath)”

  1. Sylvia Plath is my favorite poet. Actually, it’s because in high school, I had to write a paper about a famous poet, analyzing their work in relation to their life and all the predictable choices like Edgar Allan Poe and Robert Frost were already taken. I was those schoolgirls in your poem until I got to know her and grew to love her. This is a wonderful poem you’ve made about her.

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