Sylvia Plath‘s return to the United States as a teacher at Smith College was dominated by fear, its evident from her diaries and from her utter helplessness. I had thought to publish this morning ,without comment two of her poems: Mary’s Song from Winter Trees and The Magi from The Collected Plath.
It is Autumn here (despite the sunshine ),there is both a significant temperature drop and a filigree of copper on pavements and grasses , thus I got to thinking about winter palettes and warm clothing.
I read the Diaries in the last years and remember wondering at Plath’s connectedness to her intimate objects, how bemused she was at the amelioration of her condition of cold by the wearing of a pair of red silk stockings and how it alleviated her mood of intense depression. She disliked abstract art and had told a painter friend that she adored the “Thinginess of Things“.
I also thought about the issues of women’s homelessness (homelessness) as a result of War; and those little knickknacks and mementoes that are to many people Valueless .
The amount of young women on the streets of Dublin in this condition of abodelessness has increased significantly. Thus the value of small and intimate things has decreased in the face of oncoming winter and the struggle for survival. I watched people literally walk over a young girl and infant the other day in their own struggle and fear of ending up like her and it worried me. And what would ameliorate her condition and that of the infant? In many statements against war and ecological destruction I have published wordson the value of objects and trinkets. How , on my bookshelf there is a small clay snail painted in gold; and made by the hand of a small child who in learning about colour had underpainted the snail in red and left the imprint of his small fingers upon it. How, when he got older and copped onto the issue of preservation, he had lacquered the little snail with PVA in order to preserve the red-gold and give the shell a glossy sheen. To anyone else the process of creation from a simple pallets and the indented fingerprints would suggest a simple child’s play and not a process of working out and creation that progressed, it seemed, over many weeks.
I am happy that I have a shelf to put the troublesome snail onto.
The Sunday lamb cracks in its fat.
Sacrifices its opacity….
A window, holy gold
The fire makes it precious,
The same fire
Melting the tallow heretics,
Ousting the Jews.
Their thick palls float
Over the cicatrix of Poland, burn-out
They do not die.
Grey Birds obsess my heart,
Mouth-ash, ash of eye.
They settle. On the high
That emptied one man into space
The ovens glowed like heavens, incandescent.
It is a heart,
This holocaust I walk in,
O golden child the world will kill and eat .
From Winter Trees Faber and Faber, London, 1971.