What I Wish Everyone Knew About Sylvia Plath

The Belle Jar

Today is Sylvia Plath’s birthday. She would have been 83 years old today. Maybe in an alternate reality she’s living in a cottage somewhere at the edge of the cold, grey Atlantic where she paints and writes and keeps a hive or two full of bees. Or maybe that’s what the afterlife looks like for her, not that she believed in an afterlife. Is it wrong to wish something on someone if they don’t believe in it? Probably.

You don’t have to be much of a detective to figure out that I love Sylvia Plath. My blog is named after her only novel. I have an embroidered portrait of her on my dining room wall. I even have a necklace with a tiny gold inscription of that old brag of her heart: I am. I am. I am. I’m obviously a pretty big fan.

But I’m a fan for different reasons than you…

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Bee Eff Eff.

I remember feeling full of love
and golden evening sunset-light
slipping my hand into yours
laughing at the sound of ourselves laughing
then turning my head to kiss you smack on the cheek
and you smack on mine
like breathing and blinking.
You’d pick eyelashes off my cheek
and I’d collect stray hairs off your neck
we’d bemoan the harshness of shampoos,
our hands hot around identical cups of soup
feeling young and invincible and infinitely beautiful.

Do you wish we knew then what we feel now?
That time has left us both behind in each other’s lives
like sight and sound out of sync in an old film?
We are searching each other’s faces for familiarity, I can tell
and the idea hurts me in my lungs.
Nothing is the same.

We make endlessly deferred plans
to meet and gossip about the men we tangle with, and politics;
trying to talk ourselves onto lost ground.
I sit across from you, unlearning your face
I mourn you over strange-feeling hugs, your unfamiliar shampoo in my nose
as I realise, with a lurch, that I have successfully trained myself
not to love you so much
not to miss you so much.
I fell out of habit. Of kisses and fingers slotted loosely together.
You left grooves in my soul where you and I fitted into each other,
and they ache like phantom limbs.

Anger is pointless; but resentment – there’s enough to fill my mouth and my eyes.

I smile instead.
“Same old, same old.”