Winter Words by Sylvia Plath

In the pale prologue
of daybreak
tongues of intrigue
cease to speak.

Moonshine splinters
as birds hush;
transfixed the antlers
in the bush.

With fur and feather,
buck and cock
softly author
icebound book.

No chinese painter’s
brown and buff
could quill a quainter

On stilted legs the
bluejays go
their minor leagues a-
cross the snow,

inscribing cryptic
on their skeptic
search for crumbs.

Chipmunks enter
stripes of black
in the winter

A scribbling squirrel
makes a blot
of gray apparel,
hides a nut.

On chastely figured
trees and stones
fate is augured
in bleak lines.

With shorthand scratches
on white scroll
bark of birches
tells a tale.

Ice like parchment
shrouds the pond,
marred by misprint
of north wind.

Windowpane wears
gloss of frost
till dawnlight blurs
and all’s erased.

About Author

Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath (1932–63) was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied at Smith College. In 1955 she went to Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship, where she met and later married Ted Hughes. She published one collection of poems in her lifetime, The Colossus (1960), and a novel, The Bell Jar (1963). Her Collected Poems, which contains her poetry written from 1956 until her death, was published in 1981 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Editor's Notes

'Winter Words' was written by Sylvia Plath whilst she was a student at Smith College, Massachusetts. It appears in a letter to her mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, dated 2 February 1955. The letter is included in The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume I: 1940-1956 (ed. by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil and published in 2017 by Faber & Faber).