A poem. Thanks, Sylvia.

(Note: the next few lines are not part of the actual poem).

I think this kiff little poem is really appropriate for right now, seeing as my creature is now kind-of-officially The Shrimp (which Sylvia and other sensible non-Americans would call The Prawn – like in the 3rd line of the 2nd stanza). Sylvia wrote it for one of her kids when she was pregnant; she added the references to America and travelling because she and Ted (that Thought-Fox guy) spent some time in the States during her pregnancy.

My favourite thing about this poem is its lack of sentimentality – her baby is not a beautiful flower or proof of some divine benificence – her baby is a creature. A funny, foreign, mystifying, fascinating creature.

I also love that it introduced me to the collective noun for eels. I don’t get to use the word “creel” often enough.

And the last two lines are just so totally perfect.

You’re, by Sylvia Plath

Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fools’ Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our traveled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

PS This from the woman who once said, “Kiss me and you’ll know how important I am.” I’m not sure if that’s relevant here, but wouldn’t we all like to be remembered for saying something nearly as sexy and self-assured?

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2 Comments

  1. David

     /  October 15, 2011

    Hey M…this SP poem btw takes me back 30 years or so when I first met Gail. Was going through a Tolkien phase and she bought me this book on gnomes….and wrote this very poem on the front page… a poem to me hugely indulgent as I wrote poems to her (though I had not thought quite me being the fetal type)…in those heady romantic days (“Treesmell and chocolate, you’re my garden grown around me green and sunk in bark like rain deep down.”… gosh love does do wonderful things)

    And I will always remember this poem – bits that have become familiar phrases.

    …its beautiful and agree…unsentimental and fresh with bits of wonderment….and a really amazing wonderful bump thing.

    Go well and best to Dyl

    Reply
  2. Dave, it strikes me as unbelievably funny that this poem was ‘dedicated’ to you as a grown man – “happiest on your hands”? “Gilled like a fish”? “a sprat in a pickle jug”? Unless you were actually in New Zealand at the time and Gail was in South Africa? Because then you would be “Farther off than Australia”.

    Love does make us do (and feel) strange things!

    Thanks for your comment, it really made me smile! 🙂

    Reply

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