How far is it?
How far is it now?
The gigantic gorilla interior
Of the wheels move, they appall me —
The terrible brains
Of Krupp, black muzzles
Revolving, the sound
Punching out Absence! Like cannon.
It is Russia I have to get across, it is some was or other.
I am dragging my body
Quietly through the straw of the boxcars.
Now is the time for bribery.
What do wheels eat, these wheels
Fixed to their arcs like gods,
The silver leash of the will —-
Inexorable. And their pride!
All the gods know destinations.
I am a letter in this slot!
I fly to a name, two eyes.
Will there be fire, will there be bread?
Here there is such mud.
It is a trainstop, the nurses
Undergoing the faucet water, its veils, veils in a nunnery,
Touching their wounded,
The men the blood still pumps forward,
Legs, arms piled outside
The tent of unending cries —-
A hospital of dolls.
And the men, what is left of the men
Pumped ahead by these pistons, this blood
Into the next mile,
The next hour —-
Dynasty of broken arrows!
How far is it?
There is mud on my feet,
Thick, red and slipping. It is Adam’s side,
This earth I rise from, and I in agony.
I cannot undo myself, and the train is steaming.
Steaming and breathing, its teeth
Ready to roll, like a devil’s.
There is a minute at the end of it
A minute, a dewdrop.
How far is it?
It is so small
The place I am getting to, why are there these obstacles —-
The body of this woman,
Charred skirts and deathmask
Mourned by religious figures, by garlanded children.
And now detonations —-
Thunder and guns.
The fire’s between us.
Is there no place
Turning and turning in the middle air,
Untouchable and untouchable.
The train is dragging itself, it is screaming —-
Insane for the destination,
The face at the end of the flare.
I shall bury the wounded like pupas,
I shall count and bury the dead.
Let their souls writhe in like dew,
Incense in my track.
The carriages rock, they are cradles.
And I, stepping from this skin
Of old bandages, boredoms, old faces
Step up to you from the black car of Lethe,
Pure as a baby.
it is obviously about war
The poem really traces the metaphorical journey that the speaker undertakes towards sef-discovery, of course through a train ride of sorts as exemplified in the poem. Obstacles faced along the way aside, the speaker experiences a regeneration, being reborn – as pure as a baby. Perhaps one may like to relate this to Plath herself; the hardship and obstacles she encountered could have forced her to want to get somewhere – anywhere where she can find solace and comfort away from a pathetic, oppressive life. This is thus a poem about courage – about how that is manifest through her constant struggles in life – towards a final destination.
i only read the last 2 lines, & Lethe is some underground place in mythology, where there is a river & if one drinks from it, one will forget something or something. quite amazing really, seeing that babies prob dont av memories