Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ted Hughes: Birthday Letters


I had let it all grow. I had supposed
It was all OK. Your life
Was a liner I voyaged in.
Costly education had fitted you out.
Financiers and committees and consultants
Effaced themselves in the gleam of your finish.
You trembled with the new life of those engines.

That first morning,
Before your first class at College, you sat there
Sipping coffee. Now I know, as I did not,
What eyes waited at the back of the class
To check your first professional performance
Against their expectations. What assessors
Waited to see you justify the cost
And redeem their gamble. What a furnace
Of eyes waited to prove your metal. I watched
The strange dummy stiffness, the misery,
Of your blue flannel suit, its straitjacket, ugly
Half-approximation to your idea
Of the properties you hoped to ease into,
And your horror in it. And the tanned
Almost green undertinge of your face
Shrunk to its wick, your scar lumpish, your plaited
Head pathetically tiny.

You waited,
Knowing yourself helpless in the tweezers
Of the life that judges you, and I saw
The flayed nerve, the unhealable face-wound
Which was all you had for courage.
I saw that what you gripped, as you sipped,
Were terrors that killed you once already.
Now I see, I saw, sitting, the lonely
Girl who was going to die.
That blue suit,
A mad, execution uniform,
Survived your sentence. But then I sat, stilled,
Unable to fathom what stilled you
As I looked at you, as I am stilled
Permanently now, permanently
Bending so briefly at your open coffin.


rallentanda said...

I empathise strongly with this poem.Birthday Letters is a favourite book of poems. I have a poetry site called POW (Poetry On Wednesday)I give a prompt and a few
poetry friends write a poem which they link to my site on Wednesday. You are most welcome to join us.

Anonymous said...

Good poem, but with a lot of obviously raw emotions, then, for Ted Hughes.

TrueBluNay said...

This poem makes me sick. It makes me think how he is responsible for Sylvia Plath's death. Hughes was a selfish womanizer who is got publicity for supposedly writing a poem dedicated to Plath. He makes me sick and so does his work -_-

Kazumi Nagisa said...

I am opposed to the belief expressed above that Ted Hughes was responsible for Sylvia Plath's death. Plath was a troubled woman with a history of severe depression and evidence of difficult emotions upheaval (such as the death of her father) long before she met Hughes. Although some of the blame for the particular depressive episode that led to her suicide can be blamed on Hughes's actions, much of the blame cannot be pinned on him. The view that Hughes was 'a selfish womanizer' who made a victim of Plath is unjust and presumptuous, held by those who want to hate on somebody, no matter who it is. Sylvia Plath was not a paragon of feministic ideals, nor was she a victim. She was only troubled.

Leyla said...

Those bereaved by suicide, like I was, often feel extreme guilt that they were not able to save the person they loved. I lost my fiance and go over and over and over what I could have done differently. Reading comments like the one from TrueBluNay only compounds that sense of guilt. These sorts of comments are unhelpful and irresponsible. I can only imagine what Hughes must have gone through, to have to grieve Plath and then have the world - even decades after - blame him. Plath, like my fiance, was so terribly ill. Her illness was depression, and it - not Hughes - killed her.

Unknown said...

All that happened is so sad that it is hard to read or even consider such emotional pain.