You wanted to study
Your stars - the guards
Of your prison yard, their zodiac. The planets
Muttered their Babylonish power-sprach -
Like a witchdoctor's bones. You were right to fear
How loud the bones might roar,
How clear an ear might hear
What the bones whispered
Even embedded as they were in the hot body.
Only you had no need to calculate
Degrees for your ascendant disruptor
In Aries. It means nothing certain - no more
According to the Babylonian book
Than a scarred face. How much deeper
Under the skin could any magician peep?
You only had to look
Into the nearest face of a metaphor
Picked out of your wardrobe or off your plate
Or out of the sun or the moon or the yew tree
To see your father, your mother, or me
Bringing you your whole Fate.
`' comes from `Birthday Letters', Ted Hughes's final collection, which was released earlier this year and which traces the course of his marriage to the American poet Sylvia Plath. It is published by Faber & Faber (pounds 14.99).