Jake, Sarah and Martin Miller Read Their Favorite Poem

April 23, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


JAKE MILLER: I discovered this poem called “Polly’s Tree” by Sylvia Plath when I was on tour with my band up in Maine. I had made a new friend who’d recently lost her boyfriend, and we were talking about grieving the loss of loved ones.

And I had a sister named Polly who I had just lost a few months previously to an asthma attack. It was amazing how much the words in the poem reminded me of her.

SARAH MILLER: It does really seem to describe that beautiful, and really quite luminous pastel that Polly had done not too long before her death, which my husband Marty and I watched her create, and it was just… It just happened.

It’s just like, in the poem it says something about “it sprung from her pillow,” and that’s what it was like when we watched her create this thing. And it was just born.

MARTIN MILLER: It was so beautiful. It took us so much, both Sarah and I. It hit us so strongly, and we wanted immediately to bring it home and frame it.

And then when Jake read that poem five, six years later, it was almost as if the poem was written to instruct or to inform Polly about the painting, and that the painting was a necessary event in the life of Polly to allow us to have that as a talisman of her life.

MARTIN MILLER: “Polly’s Tree,” by Sylvia Plath:
A dream tree, Polly’s tree:
a thicket of sticks,
each speckled twig 
ending in a thin-paned
leaf unlike any
other on it 
or in a ghost flower
flat as paper and 
of a color 
vaporish as frost-breath,
more finical than
any silk fan 
the Chinese ladies use
to stir robin’s egg

SARAH MILLER: (continuing reading of poem) 
The silver – haired seed of the milkweed
comes to roost there, frail
as the halo 
rayed round a candle flame,
a will-o’-the-wisp
nimbus, or puff 
of cloud-stuff, tipping her
queer candelabrum.
Palely lit by 
snuff-ruffed dandelions,
white daisy wheels 

JAKE MILLER: (continuing reading of poem) 
a tiger faced 
pansy, it glows. O it’s 
no family tree,
Polly’s tree, nor 
a tree of heaven, though
it marry quartz-flake,
feather and rose. 
It sprang from her pillow
whole as a cobweb
ribbed like a hand, 
a dream tree. 

SARAH MILLER: (reading portion of poem)
Polly’s tree
wears a valentine
arc of tear-pearled 
bleeding hearts on its sleeve

MARIN MILLER: (concluding reading of poem)
and, crowning it, one
blue larkspur star.