Watching Sylvia While You Cart the Dying


by Stephen S. Mills

Daniel Craig is hotter than Ted Hughes.
Notice, they don’t let you get a good glimpse
of his abs, which are obviously defined.
His back and brief nipple shot proves
he is no Hughes, but it’s more believable
this way. Sexier too. Paltrow is not a bad
Plath. I buy it. She plays smart white woman
in pain pretty well. Her hair the perfect
shade of blonde. She also played the lead
in the Dial M for Murder remake in the 90s:
A Perfect Murder
. That time she was the cheater,
but still the good guy. Funny how that works.

You got held over at work again. Another
patient to transport to hospice. Maybe
another old woman who can’t remember
where she is or where she’s been and hates
you for taking her to a new place she won’t
remember. Hates you for strapping her
to a gurney, for talking softly in her ear.
She’ll call you a cunt as you wheel her down
halls full of women she can’t remember.
Their faces sliding by in a blur. These women
have lived longer than they should’ve. Medical
advancements prolonging the inevitable.

And here I am at home watching a woman
die before her time, just thirty years old.
I know what comes next: Hughes’s eyes will
grow more tired. Plath will grow more paranoid.
She’ll write better poems. And you, a few miles
away, will look actual death in the face.
Old or young? I don’t know. Like the 30-year-old
cancer patient you had last week. She’s probably
dead now. Gone. You know I hate the stories
you tell at night when I can smell the death
clinging in the thick fibers of your uniform.
But let’s not think of that now.

As a teenager, I convinced myself I loved
Gwyneth Paltrow. In my gay mind, she was
a good choice when guys started talking
of celebrity crushes, but I forgot straight boys
love big tits. She’s not very sexy as Plath.
Most straight boys would run, but Craig is hot
spouting poetry and cheating his way
through life. Things are falling apart.
Hughes is leaving. Plath is cracking.
You are still gone. Someday this could be us.
The splitting apart. The shouts. The cries.
We’ve had them, but we’ve always stayed.

No one has sealed the dog in the bedroom
and done the oven thing. The movie doesn’t
show much of her death, but we see her
carried out draped in a bright red blanket,
snow all around. It’s winter now, but we’re
in Florida where there’s no snow and it’s nearly
80 degrees. It is here that you handle the dying.
The people left behind. Plath is dead. Hughes
is crying. The credits are rolling. You’ll be home
soon and I’ll be naked in bed. Gin on my breath.
The dog curled at my feet. The TV turned off.
Everyone alive for another day.


About the Author

Stephen S. Mills earned his MFA from Florida State University. His poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, PANK Literary Magazine, The New York Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Knockout, Assaracus, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award. His first book, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, is out from Sibling Rivalry Press and is a finalist for the Thom Gunn Poetry Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. He currently lives in New York City.


From Sylvia (2003).