in honor of national poetry month, i present you with: Edge by Sylvia Plath
The woman is perfected.
Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity
Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.
Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little
Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded
Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden
Stiffens and odors bleed
From 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.
now, feel free to discuss.
Not much to discuss… A corpse is a corpse of course, of course, and no one can talk to a corpse, of course…
good choice. for those interested, all of sylvia’s poems can be found at plathonline.com.
oh, and the movie about her life is very good too for those wanting even more info…
The moon and the hood of bone sound like a vagina or birth canal. The bowls of milk would suggest sustenance yet in this case they bring death. The cycle of life flows out in giving birth and then in like a flower withdrawing, resulting in death and odor. The easy flow of the folds of a toga revert to crackling, dragging bones. The ebb and flow of life continues, birth, death, we just observe because it is beyond our control. The moon is indifferent to the pain we experience, because it is aware of the cycles of life. It is like Camus’ “benign indifference of the universe”….or was it Sartre?
OK, in truth, it sounds like someone very, very depressed who is admiring the “beauty” of a fetid, decayed corpse. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next few verses went on to how she lay down and spooned the corpse, holding it close to her with a smile as she tries to share the experience.
People have been facinated with both life and death as long as those concepts have existed. For some, marveling at a rotting body is as natural as people cooing over a newborn. In death, the eternal dance of errors and pain is over, where in birth, it is just beginning. In depression, we see the end of life as a welcome respite, an icon of “perfection” where we no longer are troubled with what to wear, who we have to talk to, and all those nasty emotions. The long sleep, the rest of eternity calls to the depressed in it’s siren voice; “Come and join us in peace.”, it cries. “End your pain.”, it whispers like honey on your lips.
What it doesn’t remind you is the pain it causes. Rarely has death been greeted without mourners. They who are depressed can’t understand the sadness, for who would mourn the end of life, the source of pain? They are unable to see the stack of sorrow death hands to the loved ones like tickets. At a funeral, people almost carry this pain around in their hand, wandering hither and tither looking for someone to validate their ticket, or someone to redeem it for them, but no one does. It erodes over time, but it always scars people in the process.
When a loved one dies of an extended uncurable illness, people are almost relieved; They knew the person they loved was in pain, and with no cure, there was nothing but to let them pass. In suicide, there is no comfort; The dead had nothing that was really killing them, except a selfish belief that they deserved a life with no emotional pain. Instead of dealing with it, or asking for help with it, they take the most selfish way out, often admiring the dead for their ability to feel nothing.
I guess I’m saying that this particular piece of poetry pisses me off for it’s near erotic profession of admiration of death.
Thomas, my husband would agree with you re suicide he says something to the effect that “the pain it eases, is nothing compared to the pain it causes.”
A rancher friend killed himself right before Christmas leaving his wife and two young children. His wife donated land to build a park to honor him, it made my husband and another man angry, because they thought he was a coward who shouldn’t be honored. His family had taken all his guns from him so he chained his neck to his pickup and put it in gear.
Syvia’s poem just evokes a lot of mythical or collective consciousness type images. It makes me think of the waxing and waning of the moon, the cycles we women go through from babe to maiden to crone, the hooded bone also evokes the cloak of death worn by the reaper. The coiled white children bring up images of snakes, the eternal snake whose mouth circles to its tail, neverending, or the coils of ash from burnt sticks of incense that glowed with fire emitting aroma and then fall to circle of ash or the ashes of the funeral pyre. The white maggots of decay.
JOdi’s horoscope guy said for this week I’m supposed to get away from analytical thinking to imagery and art, so Jodi, you did a great job in being a midwife!!! The poem really contrasts the methodical, analytical thinking of the ancient Greek mind as opposed to the sultry, voluptuousness of the goddesses of fertility and the circular, feeling thinking of our anima reflected by nature from the swirling atom, to plants, to our menses, to the dance of the planetary spheres. Thanks for the stimulation!!!!
regarding plathe… she suffered from depression, but the difference between her and most is that she was very good at communicating it through her writing and that seems to trouble people that can’t identify closely with those feelings. for the rest, it lets us know we are not alone.
regarding suicide — anyone who has been down this path can tell you that taking your own life does not stop the pain; it simply transfers the pain to another person.