Thursday, March 12, 2015

"The Difference"

When she collapsed to the floor of the kitchen
And threshed there, eyes epileptic,
Screaming her curse at 'Dickie' (not his name),
He knew he was out of his depth,
Not only as a doctor. Shaken
By the exhaustion, the past wrenched open
Like a dress ripped off, by that choking
revelation as of knotted lovers
Lifted from Pompeii's ashes,
He watched her recovering, sobbing, her hair over her hands,
The blame stunned out of her, as after a car-crash
Skin-of-the-teeth survival.

But it was nothing
To seeing the floor actually yawn open
And the screaming one fall through -- and beneath her
The stranger, huge-eyed, his arms wide,
Grasp her as she landed on top of him,
And the floor close forever over both.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

This poem by Ted Hughes released in a small collection called "Howls and Whispers" in 1998, the detritus of the more famous "Birthday Letters," released earlier that year.

I dunno: "Dickie (not his name)" --- Richard Sassoon? Plath, in her journals, was still howling after him mere days before she met Hughes. In one of her last poems, "The Jailer," she says, in the midst of all of the Hughes turmoil: "All day, gluing my church of burnt matchsticks, / I dream of someone else entirely. / And he, for this subversion, / Hurts me, he / With his armor of fakery... "

But it was nothing
To seeing the floor actually yawn open
And the screaming one fall through -- and beneath her
The stranger, huge-eyed, his arms wide,
Grasp her as she landed on top of him,
And the floor close forever over both.

"The stranger, huge-eyed" is Hughes. Throughout his work in reference to Plath, he repeatedly refers to himself as a naif, caught up in, first, the glamour (to his post-war British self) of her American-ness, and later in his fascination with her destructiveness, which he felt both unable and unwilling to completely escape, since he simultaneously saw himself as her protector.

I've never thought that the psychological difficulties between Plath and Hughes were as simple as his fooling around.

No comments: