1963: death of a poet

sylvia plath

It is 1963, I am recording live the last

moments of Sylvia’s life. She invites

me as she doesn’t understand livecast.


“Have a cake” she says, “Baked in my

own oven,” her eyes twinkle. She takes

me to check on her kids. Frieda has her

arms around Nicholas sleeping secure.

I livecast the sleep.


Returning to the warm kitchen, Sylvia

plugs all gaps with rags and clothes. I

help her in turning the room into an

airtight chamber.


“Now, watch and livecast,” announces

Sylvia as she quickly moves to the oven

lets the gas out and sticks her head in.

She takes in large chunks of the gas and

sits on a  chair facing me. “It bites like my

first ECT shock. My brain is clearing of

thoughts, wiped clean as a slate.”


“Feels like a gas chamber in Auschwitz,

Probably less noisy” she smiles,

recalling Daddy and Lazarus and the

Yew tree. Her head slowly droops as

the carbon monoxide kicks in.


I panic as my small camera is drooping too.

Before I can get up and open the door, the

kitchen walls come alive with the blazing

graffiti of her poems.


Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,

it’s time to vanish like the cheshire cat.
So kiss: the drunks upon the curb and dames
in dubious doorways. Ransack the four winds.

Not God but a swastika so black no sky could

squeak through. A man in black with a

Meinkampf look. Ted*, Ted, you bastard,

I’m through.


The kitchen goes to sleep.

The camera goes to sleep.

Gwyneth Paltrow** sleeps.


  • It is ‘Daddy’ in the original.

**She did the role of Sylvia in the film ‘Sylvia.’

Ra Sh ( Ravi Shanker.N) is a poet and translator based in Palakkad, Kerala. He has published four collections of poetry, Architecture of Flesh (Poetrywala), Bullet Train and Other Loaded Poems (Hawakal), Kintsugi by Hadni (RLFPA) , Buddha and Biryani (Hawakal) and a chapbook In the Mirror, Our Graves, written jointly  with Ritamvara Bhattacharya.  He has also published a play Blind Men Write ( Rubric Publishing.)


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