Plath's Last Poems

February 5: Sylvia Plath wrote her last two poems on this day in 1963, a week before her suicide. The two poems are quite different in mood, and when read biographically are often interpreted as representations of Plath's volatile personality, if not as a debate over the act she was contemplating. In "Balloons," the family watches and plays with Christmas balloons which continue to float about the small home "Delighting / the heart like wishes or free / Peacocks blessing / Old ground." Until the attempt to seize the wish-blessing:



Your small
 Brother is making

 

His balloon squeak like a cat.

Seeming to see

A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it,

He bites,

 

Then sits

Back, fat jug

Contemplating a world clear as water.

A red

Shred in his little fist.


"Edge," by contrast, documents a nightmarish vision of a mother's destruction of both her own life and those of her children:

The woman is perfected

Her dead

 

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,

The illusion of a Greek necessity

 

Flows in the scrolls of her toga,

Her bare

 

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….


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.

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