Sylvia Plath, Please Stop Haunting Me

You’re not a character. You’re not a narrator. You’re a ghost, Sylvia. And you’re haunting me.

I feel the heat of your glare radiating from the grainy portraits of your published journals. I feel your presence wafting in the air from the books stacked high on my nightstand to the essays scattered across my bedroom floor. And as my hands write and my fingers type, I feel you whispering in my head. Your talent inspires, but the fragmented multiplicities of you linger. Everywhere.

You, Sylvia Plath, you taunt me—luring me into the throes of your twisted lyrical speech. Because when I run barefoot and the grass squirms beneath my feet and look up at the sky, all I see is glass, blue-tinted glass. And the world is just a mirror, a hazy reflection of what we are and what we do. Nothing is ever quite as it seems and nothing written can ever be as true as we see it—experience it, live it, hear it, taste it, feel it.

You make me believe that I cannot live without words, inciting a fear that in the unwelcomed company of silence and clumsy prose, I too will be lost.

“Verbal repression” you call it—what a beautiful way of describing something so utterly horrifying. Because if I can’t write it, I can’t live it. And if I can’t live it, I can’t feel it.

But your words, as beautiful as they may be, distort and disfigure wedging themselves in the cracks and crevices running alongside what is real and what is imaginary.

You make me wonder if your reckless imagination is manipulation or artistic invention.

In your fantasy, you paint even the most delicate summer cascade in a heavy wearisome downpour. And when your pen strikes the page, you breathe such fiery life into each word and each metaphor that it drowns you. You drown in the mangled ruminations and the thrashing tides of your beloved Sargasso—your journal—dragging us along bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, fragment-by-fragment.

I don’t want to be a part of your creative destruction.

But your poetic musings breathe life into moments otherwise remiss, loss, and unspoken. Strings of lyrical words and images float and flit from scene to scene; I am entranced. My eyes drift down each page, scanning the words with an uncomfortable sense of validation.

I relate to you. I understand you.

I see myself in blocks of text or a journal excerpt and so I read and I underline and I annotate the margins in a childish scrawl and the pen rips through the paper.

I’m drawn to your urgent tones.

The carefully selected words.

The deliberate breaks.

The frenetic entries.

The arresting plot of your only novel.

Until only moments later I find you lying lifeless on the cold earth of your fictional basement floor, flirting and beckoning for death; Now, I’m gasping for air. But see that is your trick—you make madness enthralling and normal seem dangerous.

I shouldn’t trust you, Sylvia.

Because you blur the line between fact and fiction with this swirl of mystery that is you and your life. You seamlessly weave shards of truth into exaggerated “burbling” that magnify and intensify even the slightest chill in the air and glimpse of the night sky.

I can’t separate your work from your death and your craft from your reality. I can’t read anything that you’ve written without stumbling on flickers of truth, the very remnants of fact that narrate your archive.

So I read your novel, the poetry, the essays, the journals, the stories—everything that you’ve left behind—and I try to piece together that elusive one integrated image of you. I think if I read more closely and think more deeply, I can see beyond the “masks” and the guises.

I can’t.

The bell jar may be lifted, but I know how this story ends.

The same way it began. TC mark

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