Book Review: The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia, Sylvia,

I wonder what

you would make of us now.

It was so different for me.

They said I could do anything.

I was never trained to be a wife.

Still, I married at twenty-six,

Though I would not

marry a poet.

 

I pore through what you’ve left us,

as if it will help me.

Did it help you?

Did anything help you?

I think of your madness

In the blue hour of dawn,

you hunched over the typewriter

in the miserable British winter,

hoping that your children will not wake

for you must finish this poem, this stanza, this line.

 

I think of you in the A-line skirts and headbands,

the consummate Smithie,

measuring and judging the men

you thought were judging you.

Didn’t you know, even then, they weren’t worthy?

You held the stars, you held greatness in your bones,

though you told yourself otherwise.

Oh, Sylvia, you have taught me that perhaps greatness

feels like mediocrity.

 

I think of you throwing yourself into the ocean,

craving the salt-sun to brine your skin,

the rough slap of the water against your youth.

Did you do it so it felt real?

It feels like hell, here,

when the words won’t come,

when the night won’t end.

Oh, Sylvia, you taught me that perhaps

We are all a little mad. You were not special

In all the ways you thought.

 

I think of you patiently stacking the firewood in front of the crawl space,

crawling away to die like a sick, frightened dog.

I think of you patiently sealing the doorjamb with towels,

the most meticulous gambler there ever was.

 

Sylvia. Sylvia, you speak to me.

You make me wish I knew you.

We could have been mad girls together,

sailing through the long, dark night

to find that red-eyed dawn.

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