for Sylvia Plath
O Sylvia, Sylvia,
with a dead box of stones and spoons,
with two children, two meteors
wandering loose in a tiny playroom,
with your mouth into the sheet,
into the roofbeam, into the dumb prayer,
(Sylvia, Sylvia
where did you go
after you wrote me
from Devonshire
about rasing potatoes
and keeping bees?)
what did you stand by,
just how did you lie down into?
Thief —
how did you crawl into,
crawl down alone
into the death I wanted so badly and for so long,
the death we said we both outgrew,
the one we wore on our skinny breasts,
the one we talked of so often each time
we downed three extra dry martinis in Boston,
the death that talked of analysts and cures,
the death that talked like brides with plots,
the death we drank to,
the motives and the quiet deed?
(In Boston
the dying
ride in cabs,
yes death again,
that ride home
with our boy.)
O Sylvia, I remember the sleepy drummer
who beat on our eyes with an old story,
how we wanted to let him come
like a sadist or a New York fairy
to do his job,
a necessity, a window in a wall or a crib,
and since that time he waited
under our heart, our cupboard,
and I see now that we store him up
year after year, old suicides
and I know at the news of your death
a terrible taste for it, like salt,
(And me,
me too.
And now, Sylvia,
you again
with death again,
that ride home
with our boy.)
And I say only
with my arms stretched out into that stone place,
what is your death
but an old belonging,
a mole that fell out
of one of your poems?
(O friend,
while the moon’s bad,
and the king’s gone,
and the queen’s at her wit’s end
the bar fly ought to sing!)
O tiny mother,
you too!
O funny duchess!
O blonde thing!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Anne Sexton's poem Sylvia’s Death

11 Comments

  1. Robert L Becker says:

    It troubles me when writers , any writer, glorifies death. What’s twice as bad is that seems to be a preferred theme for publishing. I’m not kidding! Check out any poetry magazine between 1991 and now, I can’t find any poetry ( or not many I noticed, maybe there are some) but they all have dark , serious themes. I don’t know. I happen to like having a good time and not taking myself seriously at all. What’s with all this suicidal depressing self hatred stuff? Maybe some of these writers would be alive if it wasn’t so marketable or for some sick
    reason is so glorified in magazines. Publishers and editors need to stop encouraging writers to submit these ideas. Or at least notify the police if this is all a writer thinks about. It’s very unhealthy, very unhealthy to encourage these dangerous ideas. And it may be the editors themselves who are guilty if second degree manslaughter

    • Kitsune says:

      It was common during that time and it’s a feature of this kind of poetry. They would write about ANYTHING they felt.

    • Liz says:

      Poetry and literature is about the human experience and emotion, particuarly strong emotions like love and isolation/loneliness/depression. It is about writing about and exploring things that are deeper and more profound that just “having a good time” and “not taking yourself seriously”. It is about verbalizing and artistically expressing universal experiences and emotions, both postiive and negative, that MANY people experience, one of those being depression and suicidal tendencies. Your desire to want to censor media and literature, or even CALL THE COPS on someone, because YOU don’t understand it and don’t like it because you want all your poems to be happy-go-lucky sunshine and rainbows is honestly incredibly daft of you. And your implication that the suicide issue would be resolved if people just weren’t allowed to talk about it or write about it is borderline disturbing. If you are going to offer your commentary on well-respected and hallmark literature, please try to at least make it more meaningful than “we should censor poems about suicide because I like to be happy and I don’t get it”.

  2. Emile Moelich says:

    Sylvia Plath once said about Anne Sexton’s poems:
    ‘…her poems are wonderfully craftsmanlike poems and yet they have a kind of emotional and psychological depth which I think is something perhaps quite new, quite exciting.’

  3. dylan thorton says:

    so i have no idea what this poem is about and i have to write a paper on it. She sucks.

  4. Gemma says:

    This poem is amazing, the emotions just jump right out at you and suck you in. You can feel the desperation and the jealosy that Sylvia got out. It’s completely beautiful and unbelievable, Anne’s style just captivates me in the wonder and the beauty.

  5. Lily says:

    This is by far my favorite of Sexton’s poems.

    The imagery of death as “our boy” is haunting, riveting, and compelling. It’s immediacy and intimacy grab you by the throat and pull you down into her despair, grief, envy and complete utter lack of suprise.

    “What is your death
    but an old belonging,

    a mole that fell out
    of one of your poems?”

    Yet for me, the true coup de grace is the unwavering love for Sylvia Plath that Sexton displays:

    “O tiny mother,
    you too!
    O funny duchess!
    O blonde thing!”

    Both Love and grief and finality all collide into one cataclysmic and powerful work of art.

    • Guillermo says:

      Hi! What do you think Anne meant with the “mole that feel out” from one of Sylvia’s poems? Thanks!

      • Ashlin Joy says:

        Death was one of the topics Silvia wrote about extensively, and hence Anne asks if her death that she finally conquered, was like a mole that fell out of one of her poems….maybe her poems about death itself.

  6. Angel says:

    Gosh…this is a great poem only written by one of my favorite poets, now, about Sylvia Plath! Oh my! I love Anne Saxton and to hear that she too loved Sylvia Plath how awesome, I love her now! The poem was good and I enjoyed reading it as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Anne Sexton better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.