by Sylvia Plath
Love set you like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
At night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
This poem comes from Ariel, Plath’s final book, published posthumously after her suicide. Arguably, it is her best volume– and most of the poems that I love come from it (the title poem, for example). I have a pretty conflicted relationship with Plath’s poetry. Originally I flat out hated her. I first read “Daddy,” and that was enough for me. Later on I was forced to read other poetry, and then to read Ariel last semester for a class. Since then I have really come to appreciate her work.
I am crazy about “Morning Song.” I read online that it is a poem about post-partum depression, conflicted in tone, and dark like all of Plath’s poetry. I don’t know. I just don’t read it that darkly. Sure, the poem begins with separation from the child by describing it as a machine and then a statue, but I find the end of the poem more mixed and certainly more tender. The images of “Your mouth clean as a cat’s” and the baby’s vocalizations rising like balloons strike me as incredibly tender and endearing. I guess I’ll admit that it’s conflicted, but I think that the progression of the poem is from distance into intimacy.