I recently read, for the first time if you can believe it, The Bell Jar. Of course I then demanded to know if Jonathan had a copy of Birthday Letters, which he then produced. One of the great things about being married to him is the instant gratification when it comes to book reading. He has far more books than I have, and if there's something I want, there's probably no need to go to the library to find it or order it from Amazon, because it's probably right there on one of the shelves. When we get set up in Greenville, we're going to integrate our books and put them in order according to LOC classification.
I'm about a third of the way through Birthday Letters now, and this poem is by far the finest one I've read so far. I keep reading it over and over again in awe:
by Ted Hughes
Your worship needed a god.
Where it lacked one, it found one.
Ordinary jocks became gods --
Deified by your infatuation
That seemed to have been designed at birth for a god.
It was a god-seeker. A god-finder.
Your Daddy had been aiming you at God
When his death touched the trigger.
In that flash
You saw your whole life. You ricocheted
The length of your Alpha career
With the fury
Of a high-velocity bullet
That cannot shed one foot-pound
Of kinetic energy. The elect
More or less died on impact --
They were too mortal to take it. They were mind-stuff,
Provisional, speculative, mere auras.
Sound-barrier events along your flightpath.
But inside your sob-sodden Kleenex
And your Saturday night panics,
Under your hair done this way and done that way,
Behind what looked like rebounds
And the cascade of cries diminuendo,
You were undeflected.
You were gold-jacketed, solid silver,
Nickel-tipped. Trajectory perfect
As through ether. Even the cheek-scar,
Where you seemed to have side-swiped concrete,
Served as a rifling groove
To keep you true.
Till your real target
Hid behind me. Your Daddy,
The god with the smoking gun. For a long time
Vague as mist, I did not even know
I had been hit,
Or that you had gone clean through me --
To bury yourself at last in the heart of the god.
In my position, the right witchdoctor
Might have caught you in flight with his bare hands,
Tossed you, cooling, one hand to the other,
Godless, happy, quieted.
A wisp of your hair, your ring, your watch, your nightgown.