Tuesday Poetry. Tribute to Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton by James Goertel

Tuesday Poetry. Tribute to Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton by James Goertel

IN SILENT WITNESS and THE SAVAGE GOD from James Goertel’s new poetry collection, Under The Same Moon, acknowledge the prowess of two of the 20th century’s most acclaimed and fated female poets, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

Tuesday Poetry. Tribute to Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton by James Goertel

Sylvia Plath in 1957. Photo credit: wikipedia

IN SILENT WITNESS (In Memory of Sylvia Plath)

Did memories of that
Delicate china cup
With pink tulip
And blue forget-me-not,
One on either side,
Blooming on opposite sides,
Come to mind on that
Monday morning?
Or maybe there
On the kitchen counter
It set in silent
Witness to your culminating
And oddly calm, quiet histrionics,
A compliment to
The hushed gray harmony of hissing gas
Singing you to sleep beneath
One flower or the other,
Which one will never be known,
Was not perhaps even to you
With all perspective lost at last,
Poured into a coda of poems
With no need of decoration,
Nor flowery sentiment and forged
Upon the plain-spoken paper
In stanzas of hammered black
In prosaic contrast to the refined white
Of that Stangl pottery cup,
Its lip, perchance, the last
To feel the blood-warmed soft
Of your lips;
No kiss goodbye,
No tulip for an Easter which would arrive
Without you, no forget-me-not
For you who left in February,
For you buried beneath
A cold rain of other bouquets,
But not to be forgotten.

Grave of Anne Sexton, located at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts

Grave of Anne Sexton, located at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Photo credit: wikipedia

THE SAVAGE GOD (In Memory of Anne Sexton)

The savage God ascending the final steps
Climbed the not-yet-gray hair
Atop your head, where within
Your mind, unraveled, sat
And stewed; a record skipping
And recorded in stanzas
So emphatic there was no need
For a universal grammar to decipher
Speech so pedestrian
It could never have been mistaken
For missive hyperbole
Or a cry for help;
For something less than a poetry
Of uncommon honesty
To which demons
No longer demurred
And so accepting
Donned their maternal fur,
Poured carbon monoxide
Into nicotine drunk lungs
In a toast to one last sleep;
A warm milk venin laxative
Loosening life’s grip
And silencing an insomnia
Filled with voices crowding
The page, the tabula rasa
You yourself filled
With a coarse, frank
Discourse of dark poetics
Before slipping back
Into the starless ochre
Of before heaven, of after hell,
Leeched of life’s angor
And finally at arm’s length
From the savage God.


James Goertel. Under The Same Moon


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Born in North Dakota, James Goertel spent twenty years working in television for ABC, NBC, and ESPN, among many others in the U.S. He currently teaches writing at Penn State. Carry Each His Burden (2011) was his fiction debut. Each Year an Anthem (2012) was his poetry debut. With No Need for a Name (2012) and Self Portrait (2013) are his follow-up collections. His debut novel Let the Power Fall will be published in 2014.

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