Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sylvia Plath: Contusion

Sylvia Plath Collected Poems
No. 222

Color floods to the spot, dull purple.
The rest of the body is all washed out,
The color of pearl.

In a pit of rock
The sea sucks obsessively,
One hollow the whole sea's pivot.

The size of a fly,
The doom mark
Crawls down the wall.

The heart shuts,
The sea slides back,
The mirrors are sheeted.
     4 February 1963





  Among all her poems, this hurts me deepest. Like many poeple, almost all those in China, I read first of some so-called representative poems most often anthologized, before I read her collected poems. For many poeple in China, they have never been exposed to more than a dozen of her poems. I still could remember clearly how I felt when I first read of this poem (in English). I was sharing a flat in a dorm apartment with a few engineering students who had their own labs to work, while I, as an art & humanities independent researcher, usually read at my preferred time and space. I took for my own space the big living room, usually during the night time when they were sleeping. I was groping along the path from The Mystic (before this poem in the Collected Poems), in which the poet seemed to suggest that the final form of life is but a kind of vanishment or oblivion: "Does the sea/ Remember the walker upon it?" Yet, I could see and feel a ray (stray) of sun warmth in "The sun blooms, it is a geranium./ The heart has not stopped." Then comes "Kindness," in which the only real thing is the cry of a child. Then, of course, is "Words," which I take not only as the poet's manifestation of poetics but also her philosophy of life.
  When I read this poem for several times, empathized myself into the color scheme and imagery, I rose and walked unto the balcony which overlooked a night expressway on which lines of red rear lights and screams pierced the night silence. Tears welled up. It was around 4 in the morning on a Saturday. I was standing on 21 floor, and the building was erected on a hill.
  Contusion, of course, is the automatic physical response toward the pressure and strike from the outside, and hence it should be understood as life in its final and extreme form. When the poet compares the paleness of body to the color of a pearl, the gestation process of a pearl has to be taken into the understanding of the poem. Central to the pearl formation is pain in the process of naturalisation of the thing from outside the body. .....

  普拉斯詩中最令我心痛的便是這首《瘀傷》。我當然像很多人一樣,也是先讀了詩選本中她常常入選的所謂代表作之後多年才讀她的詩全編。我還清楚記得第一次讀這首詩的感受。當時我住在學校的公寓里,同屋都是有實驗室的工科學生,所以我可以在深夜佔據整個空蕩蕩的起居室。在深夜,我從《神秘論者》那隱晦曲折的小俓上摸索走來,雖然詩人似乎暗示生命的最終形式不過是一種陻滅:Does the sea/Remember the walker upon it?(大海是否/記得那走过水面的行者?),然而我似乎還能看到一點陽光感到某種暖意:The sun blooms, it is a geranium./The heart has not stopped(太陽綻放,它是一株天竺葵/心尚未停滯)。然後,在那首沉痛而令人不安的《善行》中,一面她堅持What is so real as the cry of a child?(有什麽會像孩子的哭聲這樣真實?),因而在詩最後也許出於自我安慰她又說:You hand me two children, two roses(你交給我兩個孩子、兩朵玫瑰);而另一方面她更不能止住的是流血的詩歌:The blood jet is poetry,/There is no stopping it.(血噴射成詩/無法令它停止)。緊接著便是大家非常熟悉的《詞兒》,其中的命定色彩很巧妙地融入一種詩學/美學,令人覺得詩篇具有某種形而上的意義。然而,當我的目光將這首詩中的字句翻譯成意象,當我的眼睛與呈現這些意象的眼睛重合,移情作用油然升起,我擡頭看到五房兩廳的諾大空間,僅剩下白色的牆壁和關閉的臥室,我無法控制淚水。走到陽臺,高速公路上不時有摩托車尖利地呼嘯而過,那是一個星期六的淩晨,四點左右。我站在二十一樓,樓建在一座小山上。


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