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A Birthday Present

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by

sara brown

on 23 September 2014

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Transcript of A Birthday Present

"A Birthday Present"
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,

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 to appear for,
Is this the elect one, the one with black eye-pits and a scar?
Analysis
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.

The veil, death, lurks behind her back and watches her cooking; this is just one of the many situations in which she tries to conform and be the 'ideal' mother and wife, but death continues to linger. She questions the figure, at first, to be here for the annunciation; this is when the angel Gabriel told Mary she was pregnant. She compares death to a heavenly angel, but it only mocks her life.
(or she is Mary)
Death never leaves and constantly yearns for her. She desires the "veil", too, saying she does not mind if it were something terrifying like bones, or heavenly like a pearl.
She considers death to be a present, but says she does not need it because her life is only in existence by accident. This is because her suicide was not successful because she threw up the pills. (inconsistencies)
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.
Sylvia is split in two; currently, the side that wants to give into the sweetness of death, tries to plead with her. She tries to explain that death is not what it typically is publicized as. Death is not painful or scary, nor something to be ashamed off. She does not need to worry about being talked about as a queer relative; death is a release, not a frightening end.
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.

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.

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.
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-----
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.
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.
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 too 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.

The other side says she would never lead Sylvia to down a painful path, they are one in the same and she does not want to foul her. She makes the comparison to the birthday present by describing their death with ribbons. The death will be painless and simple, easier than living.
The veil she described in the beginning of the poem represented death, one tug on the veil it would all be over. Her use of glitter and white to describe them symbolized purity and goodness. Now other veils are present and they are killing her, they cut off parts of her (figs), opportunities and relationships she could not have. To the conforming half, these veils do not exist;however, they are lingering, killing her slowly.
The other half pleads that she is chopping herself into pieces. Soon she will be nothing, only an empty shell, which is a pointless existence. She is brushing herself, cutting off pieces. Every job she turns down, poem she does not write or party she does not attend, kills her.
The actions of Sylvia seem to be done by the conforming half: cooking, cleaning and talking. The other half is confined to her mind. She yearns for the release from this robotic role of the perfect housewife, but is stuffed into the back corner. The one thing she wants is to be released from her jail, this life, but only the other Sylvia, controlling her actions, can take their life.
What is the point of slowly killing herself, when death can be quick and painless. The other half asks her to let down the veil( or all of the veils)and to finally succumb to an inevitable death. She would admire the beauty of the gift, the feeling that death is a comforting figure. Life is a brief excruciating and heartbreaking moment in time, while death has been around for eternity, "shielding" souls from torment.
Death has honor and respect; it would be a celebration and a momentous occasion like a birthday. Sylvia Plath finally explains the title, comparing suicide to a gift, and the day to a birthday.
The death -represented by the knife- would not chop and carve her into pieces like an animal, but humanely enter her. This universe, in which she is stifled and robbed of opportunities, slides from the opening. This is a cleansing of
one
bad life, which is never stated as an end or her last life
Empty 1950s Woman
Sara Brown and Ashley Chan
By Sylvia Plath
The veil is the cover of Sylvia Plath's path toward suicide and the afterlife. She is uncertain of the consequences of death, but she is determined that is it what she desires. Death and suicidal feelings have engulfed her into thinking about it incessantly during daily functions like cooking. Although cooking is a part of her daily life as a woman and a wife and requires minimal thinking, Plath is continuously haunted by her suicidal thoughts. They are always surrounding her so she begins to believe that this outcome of death may be right for her. Plath appears to have two choices; death or conforming to the confining social norms for women of the 1950s .
The veil of death, confinement, and suffering is continuously being glorified as delicate with soft, positive connotations. In reality, the veil is eerie like pale ivory tusk, or a ghost column. The veil is effective in tricking Plath with its beautiful mask. Plath claims that she does not mind the veil, but she is almost forcing herself to believe that she wants death and end until the belief is instilled in her. She repeats that she wants the veil, no matter what form it comes in, but she is also skeptical of it. She eventually performs accordingly through the development of the lies she tells herself.
The preceding statement delivered a message that Plath would accept veil even if it is small and not glorified. Now, she has presented a disparity that suggests that she is "ready for enormity." Plath is confused and undetermined about what she truly wants so she contradicts herself. The gleam and shimmer that upholds the veil contrasts what is behind it, making it seem beautiful. The last supper is the last meal that Jesus Christ had before his crucifixion, similar to the hospital plate given to patients before their demise.
The same objects that are disregarded by others or accepted by others confine and suffocate her. In reality, Sylvia Plath kills herself from asphyxiation by carbon monoxide. She escapes the suffering and heavy chains that society shrouded around her as she breathes in the sweet, ordorless, and light carbon monoxide. Plath doesn't care that she is dying, but she cares about the glamour of suicide as her confinements are being released.
The veil follows her everywhere all of the time. Plath cannot escape this eerie path that she is to face because it has become innate and it has overwhelmed her life. The sky is always above her and it is so large that she cannot escape it. Even in her bed that should act as a safety sanctuary, the veil and her inevitable outcome of death is before her. Sylvia accepts this outcome and wishes to face it with full force rather than with subtle exposures. If death is subty exposed to her, she will already feel numb and dead before she faces the actual result.
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