“The Oven” by Kim Bridgford

Kim Bridgford


for Sylvia Plath

The pedestrian nature of your death bothered me.
Because it was a stage: the two creamy children in bed,
The rugs under the door. The note left as instructions.
Afterwards, it was just grimy, the way houses are
When you move out, the texture of nostalgia.
Most of the time people hide their sadness
In cupboards, in boxes, in a pink diary
With a key. It was unfair that you were cheated on;
That you did all that work for the ledgers of heaven
And no one gave you credit. You were just young enough
Not to know that your story was typical,
That sending all those manuscripts out for someone else
Was part of life. How your jealousy flared,
Like a neon gas, the Houdini act of the betrayed.
How you got out: like a woman cut in half,
Like a cage lowered underneath the heavy blue waves
Of the ocean. Then, who can believe it? There you are!
A cartoon hurricane, black and white, howling,
Your judgmental mouth like Sunday school
Meets Nazi meets Athena, holding a thunderbolt,
Foggy, amorphous, an adolescent blowfish:
You can’t do this to me! No, no, no!
All these years later, your son has died by hanging,
And your husband is dead, too. I would like to
Make something else for you, besides death in the dawn.

from Rattle #61, Fall 2018


Kim Bridgford: “No matter where I started when I wrote my recent book about suicide, the subject brought me to regret. Even the means of death, such as Sylvia Plath’s London apartment oven, stopped me. To move forward, and have the children on the other side of the door: how much that took! At the same time, Sylvia Plath, born the same year as my father, has served as a poetic role model for me, as has Anne Sexton. This dichotomy—regret, on the one hand, and admiration, on the other—has been a fundamental part of my poetic education. All these years later my vision is still informed by it, not only in my own writing, but in my projects such as Mezzo Cammin, the formalist journal by women, and the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, whose goal is to include an essay on every woman poet who has ever lived.” (web)

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