Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Better Late Than Never?

I somehow missed Blogger Poetry Reading Day yesterday.


What do you know about Ted Hughes? I didn't know much. To me, he was always the guy who killed Sylvia Plath. Of course, that's not true, things are rarely that simple.

This year, I was gifted by a dear friend with two volumes of his poetry.

This one is from Birthday Letters. It is addressed to Sylvia, as are all but two in the collection. They are deeply personal, intimate, and occasionally disturbing. Reading some of them almost makes me feel like a voyeur, peering into the raw emotion of an intense but flawed relationship.

If you can't guess what this one says to me, you haven't been paying attention.


The Shot

Your worship needed a god.
Where it lacked one, it found one.
Ordinary jocks became gods-
Defiled by your infatuation
That seemed to have been designed at birth for a god.
It was a god-seeker. A god finder.
Your Daddy had been aiming you at god.
When his death touched the trigger.
In that flash
You saw your whole life. You ricocheted
The length of your Alpha career
With the fury
Of a high-velocity bullet
That cannot shed one foot-pound
Of kinetic energy. The elect
More or less died on impact-
They were too mortal to take it. They were mind-stuff.
Provisional, speculative, mere auras.
Sound-barrier events along your flightpath.
But inside your sob-sodden kleenex
And your Saturday night panics,
Under your hair done this way and that way,
Behind what looked like rebounds
And the cascade of cries diminuendo,
You were undeflected.
You were gold-jacketed, solid silver,
Nickel-tipped. Trajectory perfect
as through ether. Even the cheek-scar,
Where you seemed to have side-swiped concrete,
served as a rifling groove
To keep you true.
Till your real target
Hid behind me. Your Daddy,
God with the smoking gun. For a long time
Vague as mist, I did not even know
I'd been hit,
Or that you had gone clean through me-
To bury yourself at last in the heart of the god.

In my position, the right witchdoctor
Might have caught you in flight with his bare hands,
Tossed you, cooling, one hand to the other,
Godless, happy, quieted.
I managed
A wisp of your hair, your ring, your watch, your nightgown.

6 comments:

Bee said...

As far as poetry goes, there is no such thing as "late" . . . although Hughes might have liked to have had this hard-found knowledge a bit earlier. Would it have made any difference? I wondered about his use of the word "defiled."

Do you believe that some people -- too fixed on impossible ideals or paternal obsessions -- are incapable of love (with an imperfect, human object, as opposed to the fantasy of their own imagination)?

Brave Sir Robin said...

Do you believe that some people -- too fixed on impossible ideals or paternal obsessions -- are incapable of love (with an imperfect, human object, as opposed to the fantasy of their own imagination)?

Absolutely - They can never find anyone "worthy" of their love.

:)
That could be a whole month of posts, huh?

In the case of Hughes, I think he was far from innocent, but she must have had some powerful demons. As for her defiling them - I know that the type of person he is describing can leave a trail of broken people in their wake; The unworthy who tried and failed to live up to their promotion to godhead, however short-lived that moment in the sun may have been.

Lisa said...

I didn't know anything about his work before this. Thank you for sharing it.

I feel like I need to go sit in the corner for a little while.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Lisa - The corner might get a little crowded.

:)

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

Wow--intense! I can only imagine what the rest of the books are like.

Brave Sir Robin said...

Doesn't that last paragraph just break your heart? He must have loved her.