Sylvia Plath’s “Morning Song” is a poem of greeting new life, that morning of another’s becoming. A poem of motherhood and of transition, it is full of love and power. The pulse of life is love itself, mechanical, strong, like a clock, even amidst the uncertainty, the “effacement” that follows.
Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.
Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.
I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.
All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.
One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
Writing Prompts Inspired by Sylvia Plath’s “Morning Song”
*The poem ends with the baby’s voice; the mouth is “clean as a cat” and the vowels are “clear.” Can you write a poem in which you imagine a clear/clean mouth and voice: whose is it? What does it sound like? What does it say? And what is the speaker’s relationship to it?
Sylvia Plath’s Morning Song is a beautiful poem about the complexity of new motherhood. It is tragic that Plath took her own life, and did so when her two children were still very young. I read this poem as a tribute to love even despite unhappiness. And I wish that Plath had had more supports, and that we can offer those supports to women and children, and all people struggling.
To read more morning poems, or poems of transition of any kind, come on over to my blog post with 15 great morning poems.