Guest poem submitted by Kamalika Chowdhury:
(Poem #1650) Aerialist
Each night, this adroit young lady Lies among sheets Shredded fine as snowflakes Until dream takes her body From bed to strict tryouts In tightrope acrobatics. Nightly she balances Cat-clever on perilous wire In a gigantic hall, Footing her delicate dances To whipcrack and roar Which speak her maestro's will. Gilded, coming correct Across that sultry air, She steps, halts, hung In dead center of her act As great weights drop all about her And commence to swing. Lessoned thus, the girl Parries the lunge and menace Of every pendulum; By deft duck and twirl She draws applause; bright harness Bites keen into each brave limb Then, this tough stint done, she curtsies And serenely plummets down To traverse glass floor And get safe home; but, turning with trained eyes, Tiger-tamer and grinning clown Squat, bowling black balls at her. Tall trucks roll in With a thunder like lions; all aims And lumbering moves To trap this outrageous nimble queen And shatter to atoms Her nine so slippery lives. Sighting the stratagem Of black weight, black bail, black truck, With a last artful dodge she leaps Through hoop of that hazardous dream To sit up stark awake As the loud alarmclock stops. Now as penalty for her skill, By day she must walk in dread Steel gaunticts of traffic, terror-struck Lest, out of spite, the whole Elaborate scaffold of sky overhead Fall racketing finale on her luck.
One of the lesser known poems of Plath's short but prolific career, this poem belongs to the phase Hughes classified as "Juvenilia" - poems written in her early teenage years. This poem is by no means an example of her best, nor her most powerful work. Nevertheless, it showcases the development of a vivid imagination and what was to become her characteristic fascination with the dark side of human experience. Plath's remarkable imagery never ceases to amaze. She brings the dream circus to life - the young aerialist deftly, almost calmly negotiating obstacles, while the circus conspires to "shatter to atoms/ Her nine so slippery lives". The relentless pressure builds until the "escape" of the penultimate stanza, when the final, inescapable "dread" of reality catches up. And one can't help but marvel at the deft pun on the title and theme - is the aerialist a realist? Kamalika.