Sylvia Plath

The Disquieting Muses

Mother, mother, what illbred aunt   
Or what disfigured and unsightly   
Cousin did you so unwisely keep   
Unasked to my christening, that she   
Sent these ladies in her stead   
With heads like darning-eggs to nod   
And nod and nod at foot and head   
And at the left side of my crib?     

Mother, who made to order stories   
Of Mixie Blackshort the heroic bear,   
Mother, whose witches always, always,   
Got baked into gingerbread, I wonder   
Whether you saw them, whether you said   
Words to rid me of those three ladies   
Nodding by night around my bed,   
Mouthless, eyeless, with stitched bald head.     

In the hurricane, when father's twelve   
Study windows bellied in   
Like bubbles about to break, you fed   
My brother and me cookies and Ovaltine   
And helped the two of us to choir:   
"Thor is angry: boom boom boom!   
Thor is angry: we don't care!"   
But those ladies broke the panes.     

When on tiptoe the schoolgirls danced,   
Blinking flashlights like fireflies   
And singing the glowworm song, I could   
Not lift a foot in the twinkle-dress   
But, heavy-footed, stood aside   
In the shadow cast by my dismal-headed   
Godmothers, and you cried and cried:   
And the shadow stretched, the lights went out. 

Mother, you sent me to piano lessons  
And praised my arabesques and trills  
Although each teacher found my touch  
Oddly wooden in spite of scales  
And the hours of practicing, my ear  
Tone-deaf and yes, unteachable.  
I learned, I learned, I learned elsewhere,  
From muses unhired by you, dear mother,  

I woke one day to see you, mother,  
Floating above me in bluest air  
On a green balloon bright with a million  
Flowers and bluebirds that never were  
Never, never, found anywhere.  
But the little planet bobbed away  
Like a soap-bubble as you called: Come here!  
And I faced my traveling companions.  

Day now, night now, at head, side, feet,  
They stand their vigil in gowns of stone,  
Faces blank as the day I was born,  
Their shadows long in the setting sun  
That never brightens or goes down.  
And this is the kingdom you bore me to,  
Mother, mother. But no frown of mine  
Will betray the company I keep.