Dear Ms Plath,
How are you?
I hope time and tide have brought you peace.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.
I am currently writing a series of letters to Dead Poets and while I wondered whether you wanted to be disturbed, I didn’t want to leave you out. Your voice still needs to be heard, even if I’m still having trouble navigating Ariel myself. That said, some have appealed.
Rather than mailing this letter, I decided to come in person and I’ve brought you a cup of tea, a biscuit and my little black dog, Lady.
While black dogs have been cast as a euphemism for depression, Lady exudes happiness. Every morning when I stagger out to the kitchen half-awake, she’s almost combusting with excitement wagging and whack-whacking her tail. Her entire body quivers and as you move closer, the whacking speeds up. It’s rather hilarious and really makes my day.
So, I thought you might appreciate meeting Lady. Dogs have been shown to cheer people up and our dogs have certainly helped me through thick and thin.
That’s right. We also have an older dog, Bilbo, but he’s much more reserved and not all that social. He’s like that loner standing in the corner clutching his beer. That said, he loves us. Not always a bad thing to equate “danger” with “stranger”.
Anyway, I thought we could have a bit of a chat Mum to Mum. I enjoyed your poem:-
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Being a Mum is incredibly rewarding but isn’t easy.
Indeed, I wrote An 80s Woman in 2006 when my kids were 5 and 3 and performed it at a local talent quest. I know it’s a long way from my glory days back at the Shakespeare Bookshop in Paris but one of the judges was Country & Western sensation Kasey Chambers.
An 80’s Woman
I’m an 80’s woman
in a fifties dress.
I want my cup of tea.
I want my Bex.
I went to university
and had a career
but then I had kids
and now I’m stuck here…
with Weetbix in my hair
custard on my clothes;
this vegemite foundation
gives my skin a healthy glow.
Once I watched the docos,
filled my brain with heaps of books
but now I just watch Playschool
and the Wiggles have the look.
I used to hit the gym
was lookin really thin
but now my belly bounces up
and almost hits my chin.
So in search of inspiration,
I went off to the mall.
Tried to find a new look
but nothing fits at all.
So I bought myself a G-string
to shoot back all the peas
Maybe soon I’ll win the war
and finally get some peace.
I really love my kids!
I really, really do!
But is it wrong to crave
a bit of me time too?
I’m an 80s woman
in a fifties dress…
An 80s woman
in a fifties dress…
I want my cup of tea
And I want my Bex!
Indeed, there used to be a phrase: “Take a Bex and have a good lie down”. Like so many things, Bex was too good to be true. Bex caused kidney failure and your kids got up to mischief while you slept.
When my kids were smaller, I really struggled. While I was seriously struggling to look after them while afflicted with a muscle-wasting, life-threatening disease, I also saw myself as a career woman, a writer and it felt my life had fallen down the toilet. I felt like an 80s woman who’d somehow woken up back in the 1950s. It was dreadful. I don’t think I was really suited to little kids and am much happier now that my kids are older. Now that the disease is in remission, that’s made a huge difference as well. You could just imagine what it was like trying to keep up with them when I wasn’t well and my husband was working long hours in Sydney. My own home became something of a prison…especially after I fell over at home and couldn’t get up against and was left lying face down on the ground for over half an hour with no one to help. Being at home, became dangerous. Not only for myself but for the kids. Our son was three and loved climbing the back shed. I remember his excitement. Seeing the world from way up high and his absolute sense of childish wonder spotting “mountains” he hadn’t seen before. I also remember him falling off the shed and somehow caught him in my arms, despite having bi-lateral carpal tunnel and being unable to open a simple bottle of water.
I know life is difficult but did it have to be that hard.
You might also like my Kombi song:
Don’t look forward
Don’t look back
Off the beaten track.
Watch the sun start to rise.
Open up those tired old eyes.
Feel the salt air
Through your hair
Stretch your spirit
Who needs money?
Who needs fame?
Heaps of shoes?
A private plane?
No more boundaries
No more boss
Or mortgage pains!
Hit the road
Without a plan
Find a self
Don’t give up
Don’t give in
Find a skin
You can live in
Don’t look forward (Living here)
Don’t look back (Living now)
You can be…
Anyway, I’m sorry. No doubt, you’re not wanting advice but I’ve brought you something I stumbled upon by Dorothy Dix… Dictates for a Happy Life . While I’m usually very suspect about what I call: “Prescriptions for Happiness”, she offers sound advice. I’m going to print these off and discuss them with my family. Give them to the kids. After all, everybody’s life is their own “road not taken” and we’re each bush-bashing cross country and need all the help we can get. Not only maps, torches and practical stuff, but also spiritual and emotional guidance. I also try to pray. As much as it can feel that God’s incredibly distant and aloof, I’ve actually experienced him carry me over most of life’s pot holes and strife.
Indeed, you might want to read Mary Stevenson’s Footprints poem.
I also found Maya Angelou incredibly encouraging.
However, is all of this too late? It seems you can no longer change your mind.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your cup of tea and Tim Tam. I don’t mean to be flippant, but I often wonder if the answer is simply more chocolate…as long as you’re not a dog.
Love and best wishes,
Do you have a favourite poem by Sylvia Plath?
PS: Sylvia Plath save me a very simple thank you in response to my letter. Of course, we talked but I don’t talk and tell!