“Metaphors” by Sylvia Plath
I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.
The unsettling nature of “Metaphors” (The Colossus, William Heinemann Limited, 1960)arises from the dichotomy of Plath’s tone and the images she chooses to convey her mentality. Initially, she playfully compares her pregnant state to an “elephant,” a “house,” a ripening “melon,” and a “yeasty” loaf of bread. However, starting with the sixth line, it becomes clear that beneath these pithy musings run the undercurrents of anxiety. Plath begins to see herself merely as a “means”—almost an incubator, with no other worth besides that of birthing offspring. This culminates with the last line, where she realizes that she is forever changed, irrevocably. Her pregnancy was only the beginning of the train-ride; she must now become a mother.
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist, and short-story writer. She was the first poet to receive a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for her Collected Poems (Harper & Row, 1982) in 1982.