Because curious minds never stop learning, English Department faculty member Betsy LaPadula (author of the poetry chapbook Elpenor Falls) took an online poetry class focusing on the work of Sylvia Plath. The following poems were written in response to prompts offered by her teacher, Tom Daley of the Online School of Poetry. The third poem was just finished, though Dr. LaPadula says, “It’s really never finished, is it?”
.Prompt #1: Imagine or recreate a return to a locale where something of emotional significance occurred in your life.
Cimmerian LandingOur ghost still spits its terseness there, trapped by patterns
in the rug whose nap’s worn
to threads where we tread up and down, running from green
plastic battles, clutching secrets
belly-tight: alembics of frog eggs, sketched ovals of ice,
disinterred china figurines—
all these pagan offerings repulsed, sulfurous. That spirit’s caught,
so we skip the step and leap around a glottal umbilicus, through infection, a mucus
only we can sense. We tell
mother we’ve felt the moist shove of hands on us at dusk,
glimpsed shadows arcing the rail—
a jungle of anger, jittering, wooing us to fall.
She says we’re Catholic, that no priest
will come to exorcise a set of stairs, and besides, we call darkness
into being through unbridled thoughts.
Week two’s exercise was to write about a person in a particular condition using an imaginative list.
Upstairs/AgamemnonRed beats a tattoo like shiny buttons.
Red beats in dirty feathers behind my eyes.
Red moves its limbs slow, thumping.
Sometimes it feels like it’s eating all the oxygen.
Sometimes it feels like someone else’s sick pulse.
Sometimes it holds me round the waist and tries to dance.
I listen, stiffened, in the morning for it to wake up.
I only call it red because I don’t know what it is. I try not to look at the bathtub and what was left behind.
It came and nested in the wires several years ago.
I thought it would go away but it didn’t.
Who knows how many of them are up there?
I think I saw a Hitchcock movie about this once.
What happened at the end? Did anyone survive?
Week 3: write about illness or disease using metaphor.
ExtubationDo not go up against the devil’s pipes. He’s got a spare drum kit, fiddles, and a whole pack of backup demons. I own a ticket for the Museum of Unworkable Devices. Do not clap the stains on mothwings, those occult eyes; they are seraphim. They will blast your flatterer’s masquerade. Petechiae, the most broken purple. Do not plumb the line, or heft the pyramid. Consider the strength of the sphere instead, or at least the arc, your justified paradox. We are wormwood, darling, absinthe under the tongue. Do not, do not resuscitate. Revival is a queasy heaving under a sheet, trapped, smacking spastic lungs not orthogonal. Dwelling in the uncanny valley and rows of pews, that electric crucifix writhing, ululating, hands upraised towards an unzipped crevice, suppurating and mewling, pulling hard against hell’s vacuum—