To be a mother, and to double as a dark sorceress, a cleaver of dried bones, could not have been easy. Especially in the 1950s. They burned witches then, as well as reds and blacks and faggots, and other things that didn’t fit the paradigmatic slant. It was a time of burning, though televisions were new, and lawns were green and sprinklered, and men chewed cud while shaving their second faces. Also, they burned witches way back when, and now too, it seems witch-hunts belong to some fraternal order of treason, some moose club with crooked antlers, who knows.
You wrote poems. No, you fevered them. Red-hot blues, peppered shards of black. You held bits of the moon hostage, or she you. You mooned for the world, a she-wolf’s strip-tease, straight to the bone, and also, also there was your death’s head vaudeville act, juggling scythes, gargling ram’s blood and spitting it back out as flames that burned skyward, charring the fluffed bellies of clouds.
Alchemy, vaudeville, burlesque, spells brightening hollowed veins and inflaming corpuscles, spells animating petrified, rotting limbs, Lady Lazarus with a sideways grin, you did it it all, Miss Plath, and still had time to make dinner. Still took care of the kids.
Doing all these things while crossing the River Styx on a paper boat must not have been easy. But the poems, papered heartbeats, glistening with sap and resin, as if torn directly from dream-womb, and left behind for us to ponder, digest, fill our bathtubs with and swim in.
Your silver, vagabond, winterkissed drops, pressed between the margins of an unyielding sea,
will not be forgotten,
for the moon holds the tides accountable for all its parceled beauty.
It begins with a stopwatch, and a glass of water.
The stopwatch belonged to her father, or to her father’s father.
The glass of water is a joke. Imagine trying to remedy
all that desert within, all that scabbing red sand blown, with a single glass of water.
No, Anne, your dry heaves ran deep, your mirages coercions
shivering like wet sheets of plasma. The eye could only see so far,
the confessions could only cart you a dash further than the eye’s migration,
and where you left off, you began to teeter, and veer, to gag on green wind.
In the fairy tale, you were the witch, with seaweed for hair, and the daughter,
the red-hooded little girl with a broken stopwatch functioning as a false talisman:
time was not on your side, it climbed all over you and clung
like co-dependent parasites on parade, and you writhed in agony,
cried out for your father, before lying down and falling asleep on the forest-bed of pines.
When you awoke, the world was white, new-white, clean-white, too-clean-white,
and there was the blurred transit of hands, hooks, smocks, scrubs, operating instructions,
soft voices like slippered footsteps on carpeted stairs,
a mounting turban of verdigris bandages.
None of it made sense. You did the best you could, you stood up,
you sat down, you confessed, as if every word was a grain of sand spitballed
into the eye of Eternity, you crafted a swimming hole in your desert
and brought lovers there to soak with you.
The sun kept on, as did time, wind, pills, angels,
you sang through your wounds, daily,
your typewriter a pet from heaven, which you ribbon-fed scaly bits of hell.
It went on, and on, until it didn’t, the angels scattering all at once,
or perhaps reshuffling to gather and lift you up.
It ends with a stopwatch, locked in a drawer,
and an empty glass, where water
once touched lips.