“Such queer moons we live with”

For February’s Objects poem, I point you to Sylvia Plath’s “Balloons” from 1965’s Ariel.

I love the piling on of descriptions of balloons in this poem, “Guileless and clear, / Oval soul-animals”, “queer moons”, “Traveling / Globes of thin air”. Sometimes I’m not sure what to make of the stanza that goes off sideways, leaves the living room, the long simile about a peacock feather “beaten in starry metals”, except that it is as delightful, she’s right.

And note all the sound texture, all the “l”s in the first stanza (lived, guileless, clear, oval soul-animals, half, silk) and then again in the 3rd and 4th (walls, travelling, globes, delighting, like, blessing, metals, small).

I particularly admire  the action of the poem, the balloons “scooting to rest, barely trembling”, and then at the end “Your small // Brother is making / his balloon squeak like a cat. / Seeming to see / A funny pink world he might eat on the other side of it”.

And the climax happens off stage, as it were, the actual popping of the balloon—the sound—no description of that at all, just the before and after:

He bites
Then sits
Back, fat jug
Contemplating a world clear as water,
A red
Shred in his little fist.

I love calling a baby a “fat jug”, the baby who is learning about this world “clear as water”, water which of course is what fills a jug.

A few other poems from Ariel:

Tulips” (“The tulips are too excitable, it is winter here.”)
Daddy” (“You do not do, you do not do / Any more, black shoe”)
Elm” (“Is it the sea you hear in me, / Its dissatisfactions?”)

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