Lying in wait

At my father in law’s house in Wales this summer, I was fascinated watching these robber flies at work. Stationed at the edge of a blackberry leaf they waited until an ordinary fly came close and then pounced. Wrapping their legs around it, they held the fly tightly as it struggled and fluttered. Some broke away (or were they, perhaps, allowed to go?) But I never worked out what these bandits were up to. Laying eggs? Trying to kill?


Lying in wait

Sylvia Plath reading ‘A Birthday Present’

Brain Pickings has unearthed this treasure – Sylvia Plath reading Birthday. She world have been 80 this October.

What is this, behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful?
It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges?

I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.
When I am quiet at my cooking I feel it looking, I feel it thinking

'Is this the one I am too appear for,
Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar?

Measuring the flour, cutting off the surplus,
Adhering to rules, to rules, to rules.

Is this the one for the annunciation?
My god, what a laugh!'

But it shimmers, it does not stop, and I think it wants me.
I would not mind if it were bones, or a pearl button.

I do not want much of a present, anyway, this year.
After all I am alive only by accident.

I would have killed myself gladly that time any possible way.
Now there are these veils, shimmering like curtains,

The diaphanous satins of a January window
White as babies' bedding and glittering with dead breath. O ivory!

It must be a tusk there, a ghost column.
Can you not see I do not mind what it is.

Can you not give it to me?
Do not be ashamed--I do not mind if it is small.

Do not be mean, I am ready for enormity.
Let us sit down to it, one on either side, admiring the gleam,

The glaze, the mirrory variety of it.
Let us eat our last supper at it, like a hospital plate.

I know why you will not give it to me,
You are terrified

The world will go up in a shriek, and your head with it,
Bossed, brazen, an antique shield,

A marvel to your great-grandchildren.
Do not be afraid, it is not so.

I will only take it and go aside quietly.
You will not even hear me opening it, no paper crackle,

No falling ribbons, no scream at the end.
I do not think you credit me with this discretion.

If you only knew how the veils were killing my days.
To you they are only transparencies, clear air.

But my god, the clouds are like cotton.
Armies of them. They are carbon monoxide.

Sweetly, sweetly I breathe in,
Filling my veins with invisibles, with the million

Probable motes that tick the years off my life.
You are silver-suited for the occasion. O adding machine-----

Is it impossible for you to let something go and have it go whole?
Must you stamp each piece purple,

Must you kill what you can?
There is one thing I want today, and only you can give it to me.

It stands at my window, big as the sky.
It breathes from my sheets, the cold dead center

Where split lives congeal and stiffen to history.
Let it not come by the mail, finger by finger.

Let it not come by word of mouth, I should be sixty
By the time the whole of it was delivered, and to numb to use it.

Only let down the veil, the veil, the veil.
If it were death

I would admire the deep gravity of it, its timeless eyes.
I would know you were serious.

There would be a nobility then, there would be a birthday.
And the knife not carve, but enter

Pure and clean as the cry of a baby,
And the universe slide from my side.

Sylvia Plath reading ‘A Birthday Present’

Cheap shots and expensive omissions


Of course it’s wrong to link any one extreme weather event to climate change so Hurricane Sandy, at the time of writing about 100 miles of the eastern seaboard of America, should really be allowed to pursue its manifest destiny without moralising.

However, a presidential election is also imminent. The candidates are nearing the end of a long and bloody campaign and it is appropriate to point out that the one issue that hasn’t been fought over or even mentioned is the fact of global warming and the growing impact it is having on the lives of us all, including The American People.

But what could a presidential candidate concerned to offer real leadership in this area say? I came across this yesterday – a sharp, thoughtful speech that will never be made. Imagine the pre-election debate that gave a candidate the chance to say:

“Thank you, Jim/Candy/Bob, very much for asking about where we stand on the issue of climate change. How we answer this question will have a great deal to do with how we will fare with the other challenges raised in these debates.

It is an extraordinary time to be alive. We have the ability to travel across the globe in a single day. We can communicate with the entire world from the palm of our hand. And we have the knowledge of just how marvelous the planet we inhabit is and how interconnected, and thus fragile, it all is.

Our lives and prosperity depend upon a stable climate. We are able to grow abundant food, drink fresh water and develop as a civilization because our planet features relatively consistent weather patterns. So, as the scientists have been telling us for quite a while now, it’s a big problem that our climate is becoming less and less stable. In the last few years, we’ve had more extreme weather events than ever in our history, costing America more than ever to deal with the consequences. And as you may have noticed, our weather is not what it used to be, from ponds no longer freezing each winter to planting and harvesting times out of whack.

What’s driving these changes and extreme weather events is climate disruption. There is overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is driving the disruption to our climate and that our nation, sadly, is one of the major drivers. And it is abundantly clear that climate disruption will get exponentially worse if we don’t do anything about it…”

The speech goes on to map out the solutions that are at hand and the people who are already active. Worth reading in full – because you are never going to hear it delivered.

(That’s enough speeches. Ed)
Cheap shots and expensive omissions