The window above the bed has changed. The glass is long and rectangular. On the other side is a cold frame filled with wisteria. The vines are bare and look like twine. They seem like part of the bed now that this window has become a headboard. Last night when Daphne went to sleep, this bed was just a futon on a frame. Now, with this new headboard, it seems more respectable, at least in an abstract, fragile way. This glass headboard could break, but the morning is calm, and Daphne is too. Her thoughts for the moment are as contained as the vines.
Everything beneath the branches is in the ground, this room being half-sunken; the bottom of the headboard marks where the earth begins outside. Daphne doesn’t fear the sensation that comes tied up in the wisteria: that she is slightly buried in the earth. It makes sense since her feet are below where the ground begins. The feeling of being buried seems insurmountable until she tries to get up from bed. After a brief struggle, she breaks through the weight above. Once she does, the sensation of being buried vanishes so completely that it seems absurd. A moment ago she was lying in bed with such weight pressing on her, and now she is standing on her futon. She is looking through a second window. Above the headboard is more glass. This building, having been a greenhouse once, has many windows still. The one above the headboard is large with lots of panes.
It looks out at a world covered in ice. The clear layer sharpens every detail outside: the hooks of dead vines on the fence and wild shrubs. Their thorny branches look both sharp and smooth under the ice. Birds are hopping over them, making their way to a field. Their feathers are the same buff color as the ground. The grass seems to twitch as the birds search its roots for food. Daphne is part of the scene, hungry and searching, and she is also shut out. Her condition is as paradoxical as the sound of the birds taking flight. Their wings are loud and quiet, hard and soft. Her condition is like that sound and not like it at all. The birds are free, while Daphne is stuck in this half-sunk room. [End Page 177]
“There are two of us now,” she says even though she is alone. Her lover is in New York working, so why say the “two of us”? It sounds like a line from a poem. It is like the first line from Sylvia Plath’s “In Plaster,” but Daphne must check the real poem. The words have come to her turned around.
The poem, “In Plaster,” does not begin with a line about “us.” Plath writes about the two of “me,” not “us.”
Daphne puts down Plath’s Collected Works and opens the front door. The dog, Ida, rushes out and trots down the road. She slips on the ice but quickly regains her footing. Most likely, she is going to the converted milk house on this estate. The woman who lives in the building works for food magazines. She tests recipes and is generous with scraps. Ida, returning from the milk house, usually will be carrying meat or a crust. At the end of the road, she disappears behind frozen branches.
On her way to work, Daphne feels the gaze of a mansion. The nineteenth-century house sits on a hill, surveying its dominion with shuttered eyes. It stares out at the hundreds of acres bought centuries ago by a rich man. His descendants who still live on this estate have used up most of his fortune. They live in the mansion still. Daphne, reaching the end of the road, turns left onto the county route.
Even on the public road, she feels the mansion’s gaze. Its stare is smug yet yearning, distant but piercing in moments. The sun flashes in the windows of homes. Daphne glances west at the mountains. The curve of earth seems to be moving, undulating from blue into red. Soon the...