Dear Sylvia Plath (Response to ‘Apprehensions’)

Please let me preface with a confession –
I am not familiar with your work.
It is not oversight on my part, rather
a deliberate avoidance – you see,
I too have faced the brand of madness
that drove you to your death, have
feared that any intimacy we might share
would stir my own apprehensions.

Indeed, I understand all too well
the presence of walls,
have believed in the power of the sky,
the promise of green, found faith in angels –
nature my solace – realized too young
that the sun’s brilliance, that my brilliance
cannot be sustained by the innocence of white –
bleeds at the fate of indifferent stars.

I understand how gray seeps in,
tears away at the illusions,
entraps us –
how the past stalks, spirals,
threatens to suck us in, and how,
having lost my own connection to birds and trees,
wonderment sours.

It is the fate of women
born into patriarchal times,
that the blood of our menses
should colour our fists –
our fury as potent as a paper bag –
how can we not feel terror
when we worship a God
whose religion disparages our gender?

I have faced the inevitability of black –
what once brought solace having lost
its definition, unidentifiable –
have faced mortality, the cold blank
stares of death still haunting –
I am the one who passed you by –
afraid to linger too long in your words,
have woefully overlooked
the merit of a sympathetic read.

(This poem was first written in April of 2018. The prompt was to write a response to a poem by Sylvia Plath. It’s an interesting exercise. Image my own. )

Apprehensions by Sylvia Plath

There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself-
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

A grey wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?
Steps at my back spiral into a well.
There are no trees or birds in this world,
There is only sourness.

This red wall winces continually:
A red fist, opening and closing,
Two grey, papery bags-
This is what i am made of, this, and a terror
Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pietas.

On a black wall, unidentifiable birds
Swivel their heads and cry.
There is no talk of immorality among these!
Cold blanks approach us: 
They move in a hurry.

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

28 thoughts on “Dear Sylvia Plath (Response to ‘Apprehensions’)”

  1. Wow! This is powerful and really moving. Iโ€™ve felt all these things and how much time shifts but stays the same-we are still fighting to be allowed equality and ownership of our own bodies.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It is not oversight on my part, rather
    a deliberate avoidance โ€“ you see,
    I too have faced the brand of madness
    that drove you to your death, have
    feared that any intimacy we might share
    would stir my own apprehensions.”
    VJ, dearest, powerful soul, powerful voice, you have put into words my thoughts and my heart. You write with the ferocity I feel drives me to write. It is such a massive privilege to read you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a powerful poem! I have never experienced that “brand of Madness” either, and the walls I’ve faced (except for one) have been short lived, and come less frequently. The God I worship is more akin to Mother Earth or Divine Love, which has no gender, so that has helped, I think. I too have avoided Plath’s poetry, but more because most of her poems do not speak to me and my experience, although I admire her craft. Your poem for me was powerful and eloquent, while hers, except for those first few lines, just seemed depressing. It did not move me as yours did.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like your response to “Apprehensions”. I really liked your line “our fury as potent as a paper bag” I think it embodies how weak our position within a patriarchal society. I too have not read very much Plath. I think I was fearful of the darkness in her writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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