Friday, June 03, 2005

Sylvia's Picture

One day, a long time ago in the 1980s, I got a postcard from Manfred, Sr. For some reason, he was on a kick of scrawling out messages on those no-picture postcards that one can buy very cheaply at the post office. I scanned his message, yawned, threw the postcard down on the bed and looked at my other mail. Ah! A magazine! I happily trotted off to the bathroom. When I emerged some time later, it was time to go to work, so I left the apartment.

When I came back, it was really late. I easily and expertly threaded my way around the furniture in the dark living room. When I got to the bedroom, I flipped on the overhead light switch.

I gasped. There on the bed was a 4x6 black-and-white photo of Sylvia Plath, and she was looking right at me.

I began to shake. Was it really Sylvia Plath? Of course it was Sylvia Plath! How could I not recognize her? Wasn't I one of her most passionate fans? Hadn't I memorized practically every poem in ARIEL? How many times had I read her biography? I even knew what year that particular photo (1959, Boston) was taken.

But why was Sylvia's photo on my bed? Was I being haunted? Well, of course I was! Since I WAS being haunted, the next logical question was: Why me? Why had Sylvia picked me out of her legion of admirers? Why not some Ph.D candidate doing a dissertation on confessional poets? Didn't she know I only had a scrawny little B.A. in English? Through the fear, a sliver of pride crept in. Did she want to share a new poem from the other side? Did she want to reveal some information that her biographers hadn't managed to uncover? Or was she back to admonish me for my habit of denigrating Ted Hughes?

Frozen in the doorway of the bedroom, eyes locked on the photograph, it came to me that whatever Sylvia Plath wanted to say to me was written on the back of the picture lying on the bed. Problem: I was afraid to go over and pick it up. Squeamishness and fear rolled over me in waves. I was reminded of the time my mother ordered me to remove a dead squirrel from the driveway.

This isn't a dead squirrel, I reminded myself. This is Sylvia Plath. The message had to be revealed. I had a duty to literature.

I was still afraid to touch the picture. By now, my hands oozed icy sweat. I yanked 2 wire clothes hangers from the bedroom closet, keeping my eyes trained on Sylvia's picture all the while. About 10 other wire hangers clanged to the floor. I jumped. It felt like I had a live baby animal in my throat.

Barely daring to breathe or Achoo, as Sylvia herself famously said, I used the wire hangers to turn the picture over. It flipped up in the air and landed on the floor. I let out a little shriek which died quickly as I bent over and saw Manfred, Sr.'s familiar handwriting and a 19-cent stamp on the back of Sylvia's picture.


Kat said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment! I'll be back to read yours...I'm a book nut, glad to find another one!

Off to read.....

SFP said...

I discovered your blog via your comment at Jeannette's and I love it. I'll be linking to it on my sidebar if that's okay.

keed said...

wished i could be haunted by sylvia. i even wrote a poem for her.