What are these words, these words?
They are plopping like mud.
O god, how shall I ever clean the phone table?
They are pressing out of the many-holed earpiece, they are looking for a listener.
Is he here?
Now the room is ahiss. The instrument
Withdraws its tentacle.
But the spawn percolate in my heart. They are fertile.
Muck funnel, muck funnel—
You are too big. They must take you back!
In ‘Words heard, by accident, over the phone’, the telephone delivers destruction into the home. Plath captures the dread of the phone throughout the poem: it is like a beast of myth, a chimera breathing horrible sounds, flexing its serpent’s tail or wires. Unwanted words pervade the poem: what is heard—meant for an other’s ears—cannot be unheard. Language is a sticky force with several repeated rhymes suggesting a compulsion to keep listening. A repugnant rhyme pile-up—tentacle, fertile and funnel—suggests intercourse. The words worm down the wires: ‘They are pressing out of the many-holed earpiece, they are looking for a / listener.’
by Lisa Kelly