excerpt from "Ouija" by Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath as a young
married couple at 55 Eltisley Avenue

He preferred to talk about poetry. He made poems.
He spelled one out:

‘Nameless he shall be
The myriad of daughters
Tending his image

Washing the mountain slopes with tears

To slake the parched plains’.

‘Is that a good poem?’
I asked him. ‘That poem’, he declared,
‘Is a great poem.’ His favourite poet

Was Shakespeare. His favorite poem King Lear.

And his favourite line in King Lear? ‘Never

Never never never never’—but

He could not remember what followed.

We remembered but he could not remember.

When we pressed him he circled, baffled, then:

‘Why shall I ever be perplexed thus?

I’d hack my arm off like a rotten branch

Had it betrayed me as my memory.’

Where did he find that? Or did he invent it?

It was an odd joke. He liked jokes.

More often serious. Once, as we bent there, I asked:

‘Shall we be famous?’ and you snatched your hand upwards

As if something had grabbed it from under.

Your tears flashed, your face was contorted,

Your voice cracked, it was thunder and flash together:

‘And give yourself to the glare? Is that what you want?

Why should you want to be famous?

Don’t you see—fame will ruin everything.’

I was stunned. I thought I had joined

Your association of ambition

To please you and your mother,

To fulfill your mother’s ambition

That we be ambitious. Otherwise

I’d be fishing off a rock

In Western Australia. So it seemed suddenly. You wept.

You wouldn’t go on with Ouija. Nothing

I could think of could explain

Your shock and crying. Only
Maybe you’d picked up a whisper that I could not,
Before our glass could stir, some still small voice:
‘Fame will come. Fame especially for you.

Fame cannot be avoided. And when it comes

You will have paid for it with your happiness,

Your husband and your life.’

No comments

Back to Top