Sylvia Plath

Full Fathom Five

Old man, you surface seldom. Then you come in with the tide's coming When seas wash cold, foam- Capped: white hair, white beard, far-flung, A dragnet, rising, falling, as waves Crest and trough. Miles long Extend the radial sheaves Of your spread hair, in which wrinkling skeins Knotted, caught, survives The old myth of orgins Unimaginable. You float near As kneeled ice-mountains Of the north, to be steered clear Of, not fathomed. All obscurity Starts with a danger: Your dangers are many. I Cannot look much but your form suffers Some strange injury And seems to die: so vapors Ravel to clearness on the dawn sea. The muddy rumors Of your burial move me To half-believe: your reappearance Proves rumors shallow, For the archaic trenched lines Of your grained face shed time in runnels: Ages beat like rains On the unbeaten channels Of the ocean. Such sage humor and Durance are whirlpools To make away with the ground- Work of the earth and the sky's ridgepole. Waist down, you may wind One labyrinthine tangle To root deep among knuckles, shinbones, Skulls. Inscrutable, Below shoulders not once Seen by any man who kept his head, You defy questions; You defy godhood. I walk dry on your kingdom's border Exiled to no good. Your shelled bed I remember. Father, this thick air is murderous. I would breathe water.

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