Wednesday, July 18, 2012


A Book Called Ariel

Fumy, spirituous mists
inhabit this place/Separated
from my house by a row of
headstones./I simply cannot
see where there is to get to
—Sylvia Plath, “The Moon
and the Yew Tree”

There’s this light in my mind—
But it’s cold and planetary 
The trees in my mind are black

I’m black and blue with jealousy—
Ted has left me for Assia Wevill
My ankles bend like graveyard grasses

There in the St. Peter’s Cemetery—
Separated from me by a row of old
Tombstones leaning in the mist

I can’t see where I’m going—
Suddenly Court Green is dark and
Spirituous from some ancient time

Parts of this house date from the—
Eleventh century and there was once a

Prehistoric moated hill fort in the grounds

The view from my study is bleak—
A moody and mystical landscape that’s more
Like a person than just some acres of land

It responds to the slightest touch—
The slightest thought goes through it and
Comes back through me when I write

The old churchyard’s lopsided gravestones—

Covered in lichen set back from Court Green’s

Boundary wall there on Essington Road

The back wall of the property is lined—

With gravestones which remind me of an

Ancient wall of old corpses thru my window


Court Green is walled in by a nine-foot stonewall—

And beyond the house one can see the lushly

Green hills of the Devonshire countryside

Court Green has a tremendous power and—

Magnetism and gives me a certain fecundity for

The kind of poetry I’m writing now


My imagination is what attracted me to—

Ted Hughes in the first place there in Cambridge

When I was a naïve Fulbright Smith scholar

But our marriage couldn’t last—
He was like a panther caged up in the London
Regent’s Park Zoo pacing behind steel bars

He worshipped the white goddess—
And needed a new woman constantly to stay
In touch with his moody Mytholmroyd muse

I knew this when I fell in love with him—
I felt trapped like The Bell Jar in my New England
Womanhood fried dead like the Rosenbergs

He needed discipline in his life and an agent—
I typed up his manuscripts, helped him to get
Published, guided him toward Faber and fame

But in my naïve American Mademoiselle way—
I was goaded by Olive Prouty & pushing my image
Much too much toward a Stella Dallas success story

But even as I moved into Court Green pregnant—

I sensed the taint of tragedy because even in such Beautiful surroundings Ted had begun to prowl


Court Green was a door into the past—
It had a face all it’s own and had seen everything 
White as a knuckle and cold as a grinning skull

Dragging the nearby graveyard at night—
Like some dark old crime going on for a long time
The O-gape silent screams of pale white skulls

I live here now in complete despair—
Twice on Sunday, the bells startle me awake
Soberly bonging out the names of the saints
Dozens of devoted tongues affirm and stammer—
Fearing the Resurrection but knowing it will
Never and has never come about for the dead 

The tall gaunt yew tree points this out—
It has the same Gothic shape as dead ruins
Unloosening the bats and owls at midnight

 My eyes lift after them and find the moon—
The moon is like Aurelia my over-protective
Mother who I could never ever please

My moon mother is not like the sweet Mary—
I’m not the divine child that the Wise Men from
The East came to bless and worship

I’m not sweet like Mary or Aurelia—
Not calm like Ruth Tiffany Barnhouse Beuscher
I’m more like Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar

I was hoping marriage and domesticity—
Would calm me down and center me rather
Than me constantly living on the edge

But I’ve fallen a long way since then—
Clouds are no longer flowering blue & mystical
Over the face of the moon and stars 

Inside Court Green the saints are all blue—
Floating on their delicate feet over my cold puke
My hands and face stiff with dry martinis 

St. Peter’s Cathedral sees nothing of this—
And the message of the yew tree is blackness
Blackness and a book called Ariel

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