One of the poetry books I actually have with me is a collection of Sylvia Plath’s poems, given to me by three friends from university. I do not remember studying her poems, but flicking through the collection I find post-its marking a number of poems and many seem familiar. I had forgotten how much I love Plath’s poetry; how visceral, evocative, challenging and powerful it is. I guess it is not easy reading, perhaps that is why I haven’t picked up these poems for a while. Maybe I kept the book with me hoping to inspire my own Sylvia. There were many poems I could have chosen, but felt this one about motherhood encapsulated Plath’s style and resonated with some of my own complex feelings of motherhood when I had my eldest child.
Love set you going like a fat, gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and 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. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers 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 floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
1963, Collected Poems, 1981.