Poet in Stasis

Today you are underground, breathing words into dirt even there,

swallowing the life from small worms and

taking your sweet time dying. Imagining

awakening, humoring the thought with poetry.

For a woman cannot die having

smarted death so many times —

Instead you make a mockery of it, talking to me

casually from the bridges of little stanzas and telling me

about tulips, about newborns, sweet things that made you sick,

and sickness that made you write.

You didn’t want any flowers, but I can tell you

you get them eventually. Loving souls,

like your hospital visitors, planting bouquets where you’re

buried. Every odd adjective I envelop in earnestness,

every innocent girl I strive to reclaim, every line that takes my helplessness

and makes something worthwhile of it, I revive you I revive you I revive you;

I hope you do not mind outliving yourself. I hope

you find the silence no burden, I hope

your heaven is a honey-feast you believe in, I hope

you are still breathing men whole, even intangible. I hope

you have time now, for those flower-heads, horizontal

I hope you do not mind being spread

so thin. I hope the sky whispers and you can still hear it.

And the wingy myths do not tug at you

anymore. Years laters we encounter

you: your foot is in the door;

you hold it open for us. Lines that gathered and became

a pedestal, a winter blanket. And under my pillow

is your fat gold watch, so that I can hear what it is to be human,

to always be in anger and in love, to always

be surprised when we nick our thumbs.

I hope there is more hope in your stasis, you Ariel.

This was written on October 27, 2021, what would have been the 89th birthday of Sylvia Plath. I wanted to write something that brought to life my admiration for her: a tribute, but also an homage.

Sylvia’s impact on confessional poetry, mainstream feminism, and the generations of women writers after her speaks for itself. I owe a lot of my artistry to what she achieved both in and after her lifetime. While it is sad that she may always be remembered more for her death than for her life, no one that reads Sylvia’s poetry can deny her outspoken individuality. And as more about her is revealed through posthumous publications, we are reminded of her existence outside of being a hero or villain in the stories of other people.

Over quarantine, I dove into Ariel: The Restored Edition, a recreation of Plath’s original vision for her collection. I recommend the introduction by Frieda Hughes, Plath’s daughter, for more insight into the acclaimed work and its author.

Here are the poems referenced in “Poet in Stasis” — all credit, of course, to their beloved creator:

  • Lady Lazarus
  • Tulips
  • Blackberrying
  • I Am Vertical
  • Lorelei
  • Mushrooms
  • Flute Notes from a Reedy Pond
  • Morning Song
  • Words
  • Cut
  • Ariel

Sylvia’s epitaph reads, “Even amidst fierce flames / the Golden Lotus can be planted.”

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she/her. intersectional feminist and lover of poetry. varshasenthilwrites@gmail.com

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Varsha Senthil

Varsha Senthil

she/her. intersectional feminist and lover of poetry. varshasenthilwrites@gmail.com

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