A poem from “Music from Words” about 2 oppressed housewives of the 1950’s

I’ve been occasionally posting one of the poems from my book, Music from Words. My hope is that some dear readers will buy one or more copies of the book. The best place to buy Music from Words is either from the publisher, Bellday Books or from Amazon or another online book store. You can also order it at virtually all brick-and-mortar book stores.

Today’s poem, “Dot and Sylvia,” was originally published a few years back in Mississippi Review.  It’s about two housewives of the 1950’s and early 1960’s who suffered from the malaise that Bette Friedan called the feminine mystique. One of the women is the poet Sylvia Plath.


Both plunged beads of boiling fudge through frigid water

at the perfect point, without thermometer,

beat egg and air with effortless wrist spins,

created endless games with plastic dinosaurs

and pieces of paper on rainy afternoons,

peeled fruit for all children and adults she loved,

fell to knees in mock anger and pointed index finger

to emphasize a discrepancy in height,

played Stravinsky and Carmen with Leontyne Price,

taught children funny words to the Toreador Song,

listened tenderly as others told their lives,

loved to talk about books she read,

to feel big wet drops fall on her hair and face in an open field,

to close eyes and imagine making love

to the warm flat stone on which she was sunning,

wanted a strong and brilliant male to obliterate her

then hated him for doing so,

spoke often of what others thought of her

of what they thought she thought they thought,

stewed about public snubs that no one else could see,

said nasty things when she couldn’t hold her liquor,

would suddenly turn on others, then seek forgiveness,

requested permission to loathe her mother,

mouthed troubling phrases:

stasis in darkness

the brown arc

the dew that flies

she never loved me

he touched me in that spot,

fluctuated between loving every stranger

and abhorring her own flesh,

savored jolt after jolt of current

piercing her body like a lover gone wild,

stayed in bed by day, paced halls by night,

found it easier to remember

moments of gloom than moments of radiance,

examined several forms of suicide

until selecting one, and here they differed:

Sylvia stuck her head in an oven.

Dot swallowed pills.

–          Marc Jampole


Originally published in The Mississippi Review Vol. 31 #1-2 (Spring 2003) and Music from Words (Bellday Books, 2007)

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