During his marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes took up an affair with Assia Wevill after she and her husband David visited the couple in 1962. Wevill’s husband, upon finding out about the affair, took a number of sleeping pills and attempted suicide, but survived. After Plath’s suicide in 1963, Wevill moved into Hughes’s house two days after Plath’s death. Of Hughes, Wevill told friends that his lovemaking was so ferocious, “in bed, he smells like a butcher.” She helped raise Plath and Hughes’s children, and one of her own, but Hughes once again left on another affair in 1968. The following year, Wevill committed suicide and the murder of her four-year-old daughter, gassing herself in the same manner that Plath had done. In her diary, Assia Wevill wrote that the ghost of Plath had made her suicidal.
To Assia Wevill.
Were there nights
when you were sure he would grind you down to bone?
That you had not placed nearly enough wax paper on the bed spread,
that you would have to wash the sheets tomorrow?
Did you ever think of David?
His custard eyes
and balloon hands.
Clumsy with words
and careless with love.
Some of us are born chasing disaster.
From the moment we enter this world screaming,
we are looking for lightning,
of our bodies
always searching for cleaver hands.
You memorized every love poem he wrote for someone else
and slept on a pillow that had held her slumber.
Some of us are born chasing poetry.
When you searched for the words,
was it her voice who spoke them?
Sarah Kay is a NYC-based poet whose work has taken her uptown, downtown, and out of town. Her work is published or forthcoming in Foundling Review and DamselFly Press, among others. Sarah is the Founder and Director of Project V.O.I.C.E., which promotes creative self-expression among high school and college students through writing and Spoken Word workshops. For more information please see project-voice.net.