Sylvia Plath’s “Prospero Shows Ariel How to Open a Hellgate”

PROSPERO: We make new stock from the salt.

Let the mercuric
of a rose close when the garden

For a minute the sky pours into the hole like
a paperweight…

Ariel, staring from her hood of bone
she is used to this sort of thing.

In a pit of rock
curve of water upleaping
old barnacled umbilicus, atlantic cable
starless and fatherless, a dark water.
Red stigmata at the very centre,
like a sprat in a pickle jug:

The tongues of hell
keeping, it seems, in a state of miraculous repair
then the substanceless blue
the dew that flies

Riding the rip tide to the nearest point of departure
Into the terrible well itself.

PROSPERO: Nevertheless, nevertheless
The tinder cries…
Pitcher of mik, now empty…

And a naked mouth, red and awkward
fat and red, a placenta.

Into the red
touching and sucking…
pushing by like hearts…
dead hands, dead stringencies…
Thigh, hair…
Eyes rolled by white sticks…
Naked as paper, to start…

From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower,
remembering, even in sleep;
stasis in darkness;
pour of tor and distances;
cold homicides…

ARIEL: Christ! they are panes of ice…

PROSPERO: Empty? Empty. Here is a hand.

ARIEL: The earthen womb…

PROSPERO: Believe me, they’ll bury you in it.

Her bare
body wears the smile of accomplishment.

A Riddle

What am I?
My breath is the sea foam’s subtle churning
My breath is the bird’s automatic babbling
My breath is the cloud mist’s clenchings and unclenchings
My breath is the thundering star-wave thaum
My breath is the forking of lightning angles
My breath is the forging of mountain’s face
My breath is the sand’s tumble-glass roar
My voice is the sea whisper slump
My voice is the crow-cry’s arcing
My voice is the cloud gaze recognition
My voice is the thunder’s propogation
My voice is the forging of elements
My voice is the landslide’s destruction of roads
My voice is the pile’s piling angle
My brain is the moon’s towering amazement
My brain is the bird-brain’s response to a jump-scare
My brain is the sun, and the astronomical unit
My brain is the twinkling of nuclear despair
My brain is the electron’s earthquake fizz
My brain is the shading and curve of space-time
My brain is the hourglass curve and falling
What am I?


tonight the totality of human knowledge
hit me on the head
I saw it coming out of the corner of my eye
but I couldn’t move in time

so I stood transfixed.
and it impacted my skull.

a small knowledge, the one I had
shoved, shot out the other side
and now I can barely speak

by what right do even these marks carry meaning
I garble at the passing of the gargantuan object

but –
it all looked the same
so many fragmented taxonomies
so many grey papers,
and shock only at the mass

there is the solace.
the golden wisdom of myself.
slowly I engage again the differential.

Museum Fatigue

Blue bed – soft sheets
And pillows in torn pillowcases
Pillows hard as matted pleats of hair
Quietly lying, thinking fine
Thoughts like twined-gold jewellery
Loot of colonial vessels.
Maybe – a staff made of whale rib, whale song
Or masks in the darkness
Of a glass room, speaking
Languages I can’t speak with.

I can speak the blue bed here
Heavy sheets and my drowsy shirt
All human elements heated
Til they propogate crisp museum light.

Poems About Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath

Ted guessed
By the blue-black sheen of the bookmark

when, on the 49th page
Three days before the writing stopped
The entries began to more and more
Resemble claws and talons
Scruffily dipped in ink
And smeared across the paper
Making a real mess
That he had to burn it
What else could he do?
Then went to lie down
Face down
In his face upwards body


Ted caught a Sylvia
Oh what a fish
He kept it close, and they lived
Happily as man and fish live.
After a while, he let the fish alone, she bit
Besides, you know what they say about fish.

When someone put Sylvia in the oven he cried
Why should fish have to die like this?
Rather than swim glinting in the thunderous foam
Scattering scales, each part of the water’s poem.

From time to time, and when life
was nearly through
Ted tried a little smoked Sylvia.
His taste buds were suited to her
As a fly is suited to a fish –

Now they swim together,
Amongst the many pages, they swim.
And we thread new lines to catch them.


Who killed Sylvia?
Aurelia killed her. Make no mistake.
She knew just what she was doing.
She lit the fuse
And bundled her into a white heat
pressure, pressure of a skull forge
Of an american all-girl third degree
burn to the brain.

After that her skin flaked slowly
Small stanzas of skin
The scar-tissue exposed would sting
and then burn and numb again.

And when the fire achieved her core
She climbed into the oven
To finally feel at home.