Poems pounded down like thumping hooves,
staccato oak leaves, slapped paper,
the all-importance of the words
a bond, a liturgy sticking the nuance
of self to your soil . . . even though you were
never meant to be here for long, for long.
You knew this by the way the poems pounded
down like your hand slapping the carpet
when the sloe gin has taken your presence
on another slippery expedition of mortality;
it’s clear the poems do not pound the words pulped
of many other poets, flouncing their fears forward
on paper held like a ticket, a ticket.
The very thing that keeps you here
also makes you flirt with another way,
yet you fear there may not be an exact torrent
of poems there (the only way to pound the blood,
the only way to properly shake the fabric of death)
and if there’s a chance the poems only pound
on this side, this side, can this be why
only a handful of poets come this close to the kill?
Poems must continue to pound, you understand,
even as you caress another way to compose yourself.
Sylvia Plath (1931-1963) American poet, published her first poem at the age of eight. Suicidal from a young age, she endured, at various times, electroshock and psychotherapy. She married the poet Ted Hughes, who went on to become England’s poet laureate. The marriage lasted seven years, but failed when Hughes left her for another woman. Months later, Plath killed herself with cooking gas. In a macabre twist of irony, the woman for whom Hughes left Plath also gassed herself to death. Another poet-suicide, Anne Sexton, wrote of frequent drinking dates at the Ritz with Plath: “Often, very often, Sylvia and I would talk at length about our first suicides; at length, in detail, and in depth between the free potato chips. Suicide is, after all, the opposite of a poem”