What were those caryatids bearing?
It was the first poem of yours I had seen.
It was the only poem you ever wrote
That I disliked through the eyes of a stranger.
It seemed thin and brittle, the lines cold.
Like the theorem of a trap, a deadfall - set.
I saw that. And the trap unsprung, empty.
I felt no interest. No stirring
Of omen. In those days I coerced
In my favour out of every sign.
So missed everything
In the white, blindfolded, rigid faces
Of those women. I felt their frailty, yes:
Friable, burnt aluminium.
Fragile, like the mantle of a gas-lamp.
But made of nothing
Of that massive, starless, mid-fall, falling
Heaven of granite
stopped, as if in a snapshot,
By their hair.
Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998.