Viciousness in the kitchen!
The potatoes hiss.
It is all Hollywood, windowless,
The fluorescent light wincing on and off like a terrible migraine,
Coy paper strips for doors —
Stage curtains, a widow’s frizz.
And I, love, am a pathological liar,
And my child — look at her, face down on the floor,
Little unstrung puppet, kicking to disappear —
Why she is schizophrenic,
Her face is red and white, a panic,
You have stuck her kittens outside your window
In a sort of cement well
Where they crap and puke and cry and she can’t hear.
You say you can’t stand her,
The bastard’s a girl.
You who have blown your tubes like a bad radio
Clear of voices and history, the staticky
Noise of the new.
You say I should drown the kittens. Their smell!
You say I should drown my girl.
She’ll cut her throat at ten if she’s mad at two.
The baby smiles, fat snail,
From the polished lozenges of orange linoleum.
You could eat him. He’s a boy.
You say your husband is just no good to you.
His Jew-Mama guards his sweet sex like a pearl.
You have one baby, I have two.
I should sit on a rock off Cornwall and comb my hair.
I should wear tiger pants, I should have an affair.
We should meet in another life, we should meet in air,
Me and you.

Meanwhile there’s a stink of fat and baby crap.
I’m doped and thick from my last sleeping pill.
The smog of cooking, the smog of hell
Floats our heads, two venemous opposites,
Our bones, our hair.
I call you Orphan, orphan. You are ill.
The sun gives you ulcers, the wind gives you T.B.
Once you were beautiful.
In New York, in Hollywood, the men said: ‘Through?
Gee baby, you are rare.’
You acted, acted for the thrill.
The impotent husband slumps out for a coffee.
I try to keep him in,
An old pole for the lightning,
The acid baths, the skyfuls off of you.
He lumps it down the plastic cobbled hill,
Flogged trolley. The sparks are blue.
The blue sparks spill,
Splitting like quartz into a million bits.

O jewel! O valuable!
That night the moon
Dragged its blood bag, sick
Up over the harbor lights.
And then grew normal,
Hard and apart and white.
The scale-sheen on the sand scared me to death.
We kept picking up handfuls, loving it,
Working it like dough, a mulatto body,
The silk grits.
A dog picked up your doggy husband. He went on.

Now I am silent, hate
Up to my neck,
Thick, thick.
I do not speak.
I am packing the hard potatoes like good clothes,
I am packing the babies,
I am packing the sick cats.
O vase of acid,
It is love you are full of. You know who you hate.
He is hugging his ball and chain down by the gate
That opens to the sea
Where it drives in, white and black,
Then spews it back.
Every day you fill him with soul-stuff, like a pitcher.
You are so exhausted.
Your voice my ear-ring,
Flapping and sucking, blood-loving bat.
That is that. That is that.
You peer from the door,
Sad hag. ‘Every woman’s a whore.
I can’t communicate.’

I see your cute décor
Close on you like the fist of a baby
Or an anemone, that sea
Sweetheart, that kleptomaniac.
I am still raw.
I say I may be back.
You know what lies are for.

Even in your Zen heaven we shan’t meet.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Sylvia Plath's poem Lesbos


  1. Suzanne says:

    In regard to the last line in the previous comment: It is absurd to say that Ted Hughes “…did not allow her work to be published until after her suicide…” Just absurd.

    During her lifetime Plath had numerous publications in prestigious periodicals, had a contract with The New Yorker which required her to give them a first look at new poems, and had submitted for consideration many of the Ariel poems before her death.

    Hughes’ actions can be fairly questioned in regard to other things, but flatly suppressing her work, not “allowing” her to publish during her lifetime, is not one of them.

  2. Mikaela says:

    Sylvia Plath shows her frustration through this poem specifically. She is hiding the fact that she knows about her husbands mistress, and she feels the pressures of a married woman with a spirited mind. She is trapped performing menial jobs such as peeling potatoes and watching her daughter, who lies on the floor not knowing what is going on except that her poor kitten has somehow been mangled by the patriarchal figure, in a sense that is Plath, trapped beneath a patriarchal roof and even thought they are split up she cannot have an affair like he can, she cannot be free she has two children to attend to! Plath is such a literary genius it is a shame that Hughes would not allow her work to published until after her suicide…

  3. laura cortez says:

    i just dont get the poem :/

  4. Jenn says:

    I can’t believe how many idiots there are here!
    1. learn to spell
    2. this poem is NOT about lesbians! It’s about Plath insulting and demeaning her husband for leaving her for his mistress! It’s quite obvious!

  5. Castiza says:

    In her introduction to the restored edition of ‘Ariel’ Frieda Hughes mentions this poem as one which Ted Hughes kept out of the original British edition of Ariel because ‘the couple so wickedly depicted in it lived in Cornwall’ and I thought I’d point this out if for no other reason than to (hopefully) dispel the idea that this poem was about Assia Wevill–something I’d have argued against long before I reread Lesbos in the restored ‘Ariel’ …obviously a poem belongs to the reader, each reader, but for heaven’s sake, when you read a poem, please try (at least on a first reading!) to set aside what you know or surmise about the poet!

  6. Alicia says:

    this poem is amazing no matter how disturbing she is, she is a woman who speaks her mind especially in the poem “Daddy” but this one by far is my favorite. It shows the way lots of ladies feels if they feel trapped somewhere with someone who they dislike…its sad find yourself…

  7. amanda says:

    This is my favorite poem by Sylvia. I have read it over and over and have come across so many different meanings to it. Is she thinking about a specific woman, or is she just thinking about them in general? “You have one baby, I have two.” And “We should meet in another life, we should meet in air, Me and you.” It makes me think that she is thinking of a certain woman. Maybe the one Ted cheated on her with? I can’t remember the year that happened, but it makes sense. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been meaning to look more into this since I love the intesity and power of this poem so much and would love to better understand her completely. That is just my thought though.

  8. elean says:

    This poem is beautiful.

  9. Michael says:

    I’m sure that millions of people around the world can associate with the underlying sentiments of this poem – the helpless disgust of being in a life that you hate and knowing the beautiful possibilities that are forbidden you and outside your grasp.

    Pippa get over the spelling error – the comment was not a poem itself.

  10. Farah Mansour says:

    as i am one of the people Plath is talking about in the poem, it gives me great pleasure that my feelings are expressed in other words than mine. i am a lesbian!

  11. Pippa says:

    “Daddy” was about both her father and Ted Hughes. Her great resentment towards her father is a misconception because they got along quite well.
    ALSO! Can you all please learn how to spell? DISTURBED!

  12. Stephanie says:

    I think that this poem shows Plath’s real feelings about how she felt about women and men…I think she was unsure of what she actually wanted. She possibly was describing how she felt at times!! I don’t know I personally find her desturbing.

  13. alana says:

    this woman was truly disturbid wasnt she no 1 can write like this without haveing somthing trumatic happen to then!

  14. nina says:

    I find her so brutally honest in her poems, it’s disturbing… in a good way 🙂

  15. Sara says:

    i agree with you. this is an awesome poem.
    however, i do not think “daddy” is overrated. every line is oozing. it’s such a strong, well-written poem.

  16. heather says:

    plath’s poem “Daddy” was in a way she though about her father leaving her at a young age it made her sad and it also made her very mad with him for going. that is what i think it meant to me.

  17. natalie says:

    i love this poem. every time i read it i find new meaning in it. i think sylvia plath’s other poems like “daddy” are overrated. this one takes the cake.

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