The Rival

If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.
Both of you are great light borrowers.
Her O-mouth grieves at the world; yours is unaffected,

And your first gift is making stone out of everything.
I wake to a mausoleum; you are here,
Ticking your fingers on the marble table, looking for cigarettes,
Spiteful as a woman, but not so nervous,
And dying to say something unanswerable.

The moon, too, abuses her subjects,
But in the daytime she is ridiculous.
Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand,
Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity,
White and blank, expansive as carbon monoxide.

No day is safe from news of you,
Walking about in Africa maybe, but thinking of me.

by Sylvia Plath

Comments (6)

Maybe it is about her classmate from smith with who she had to share to mademoisele writers prize.
I don't think this poem was about Sylvia Plath's mother, but rather Assia Weevil, who was her 'rival' in terms of her marriage to Ted Hughes. This poem was published in Ariel (I believe) around the time her marriage to Ted was dissolving due to his infediliity. The poem is so acidic and full of pain, that put in context with the time it was written, this seems the only logical and applicable explanation
This poem is indeed about her mother, she is comparing her to the moon something beautiful, but also very cold and that sometimes makes us think of death. 'The rival' is her mother who captured her fathers attention and now seems to be always in between her and her husband, always arround. She describes her as if she were cold. Always wanting to say the last word, always wanting to get everyones attention 'great light borrowers'. She is impatient, always dissaproving her daughter, always showing disatisfaction, but at the same time, taking care of her in an inocent way, not leaving her alone and writing or calling to check on her from the States to England (where Plath was living at the moment of writing this poem) . Plath she doesn't seem to like this attention, she just wants to live her life without anyone telling her how to or without her mother being always there, in between saying the last word. This is whati understand from this poem...i hope it helps you.
I've come to the conclusion that this poem is actually written about her mother. When I first read it I immediately thought, 'This about the awfulness of Ted, ' but what struck me was her line, 'Your dissatisfactions, on the other hand, Arrive through the mailslot with loving regularity..' Remembering that Sylvia's mother published an entire book of her letters home, and her daughter's suicidal tendencies were probably worsened by her mom's high expectations.
Is the poem about her husband Ted Hughes? If not, could someone shed some light on who it is about? Thankyou.
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