Housewife Lost at Sea

Mermaid,
you married your house and
you divorced yourself.

As I pull you onboard,
you seem battered by brooms,
pale and lifeless, hanging
like linen as I had expected.
Draped around you is a flannel shirt and
apron made of hot-pots and Tupperware boxes
covered in eggs and spit.
White dish cloths cling to your flesh:
white flag surrenders, moist with suds.
That cigarette
propped between your fingers,
an eleventh finger stuck up at the world,
marks your defiance.
You lie still in my boat
sad siren, I hear your calls
but you do not seduce or sing,
yet your voice is unashamedly
female.

Witch mother cast your spells!
Leave your children and burn the dinner!
As my boat carries you away,
you rip off your apron and
you rise out of the blue
triumphant.


My poem was inspired by the Confessional poets Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton – two brilliant yet suffering women in the mid-twentieth century writing candidly about their experiences as a woman and on dealing with mental health issues. I took the idea from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem The Fish which you can find here; the poem narrates someone pulling a fish out of the water and observing its beauty. I thought about the 1950s/60s housewife that Plath and Sexton so often depicted – trapped, lost yet urgent to reclaim power. The Confessional poets were pivotal in their depiction of mental health within poetry as something raw and involving great suffering, with so many poets preceding them often romanticising the ‘Mad Poet’ persona. I wanted to empower this housewife persona depicted by Plath and Sexton in probably the most feminist poem I’ve ever written!

Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash.

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