Plath’s Last Poems

February 5: Sylvia Plath wrote her last two poems on this dayin 1963, a week before her suicide. The two poems are quite different in mood,and when read biographically are often interpreted as representations of Plath’svolatile personality, if not as a debate over the act she was contemplating. In”Balloons,” the family watches and plays with Christmas balloonswhich continue to float about the small home “Delighting / the heart likewishes or free / Peacocks blessing / Old ground.” Until the attempt toseize the wish-blessing:



Your small
 Brother is making

His balloon squeak like acat.

Seeming to see

A funny pink world hemight eat on the other side of it,

He bites,

Then sits

Back, fat jug

Contemplating a worldclear as water.

A red

Shred in his little fist.


“Edge,” bycontrast, documents a nightmarish vision of a mother’s destruction of both herown life and those of her children:

The woman is perfected

Her dead

Body wears the smile ofaccomplishment,

The illusion of a Greeknecessity

Flows in the scrolls ofher toga,

Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:

We have come so far, itis over.

Each dead child coiled, awhite serpent,

One at each little

Pitcher of milk, nowempty

She has folded

Them back into her bodyas petals

Of a rose close when thegarden

Stiffens and odors bleed

From the sweet, deepthroats of the night flower….


Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.