By Anushka Joshi | Illustration by Manya Tam | May 2, 2019

On Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and Assia Wevill.

the woman something idk

They both died domestic deaths,

The homewrecker and the housewife.

Both with their heads on the cool

Grate of an oven.

A fuck you to the fifties,

That era of aprons like straitjackets,

Aprons that gleamed white

Like carnivorous teeth, that swallowed up

The lives of women,

Ate them as they cooked.

The mistress worked as an ad-writer, came up

With the slogan “Mr. Kipling’s

Exceedingly good cakes,”

The wife made lemon meringue pies,

Would they have killed themselves

If they didn’t know how to turn

On an oven in the first place?


There are two kinds of mothers in the world,

The Sylvias who switch on the gas

But fold a thin blanket under

The kitchen doorsill

So that it won’t poison their children in the next room.

And the Assias, who do not put a blanket under the doorsill,

Who take their children along with them,

Like stray punctuations on their epitaphs.

In their own ways both protected

Their children,
The first from death,

The second from life.

The man with whom

They had lain under that  blanket

Or under the absence of that blanket,

Was the poet who broke women

Like he broke lines,

Who turned to poetry

When he gave up hunting but never

Quite lost the habit of slaughter.

The kind who leaves a woman

With the tumorous instinct for death

Growing in her gut,

Faster than a fetus.

The kind who, even if

He considered suicide, would

Abandon the thought,

Abandon the house,

Abandon the children there,

Go instead for a walk

Or to make a call,

Forgetting to switch off

The gas at all.

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