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.



You may believe, Dear Reader,
that the words are mine to command
that I carefully contrive the message
form and structure succumbing
to my direction, syntax following suit

It has not been my intention to deceive
but, you see, I am mere slave to the whim
words hold the power, strangle my thoughts,
demand expression – they are haunting things,
rooted in urgency, and unwilling to bend

I would love to accept praise, pretend
a wisdom that is not mine, but words…
…well, they are born of some alien seed
growing within, nurtured I know not how,
and I am merely the vessel through which
their staccato voyage unravels

Stubborn as they are, silly things, really –
although I dare not say, for they can be vengeful
and vile, and I prefer the fluid passage
of expression than the painful, tearing,
slashing of words – monstrous as they can be
I  am rendered servant by their insistence

(Image my own)


Words, like crickets,
leap from my mind –
chirping pests
whose trajectory
eludes my dulled
reflexes, scuttling
around the periphery
of my awareness

Harmless, really,
in the singular,
a cacophony
in multitudes
to multiply further
and destroy any
semblance of sanity

I must intuit
their rhythm,
define the notes
in workable phrases,
capture the essence
of their meaning
and inscribe the message
before they disappear again.

(Pestilence of Words first appeared on One Woman’s Quest II, October 2016. Edited for this edition. Image my own.)