"Poppies in October," is part of a collection of poems that Sylvia Plath wrote in 1962 toward the end of her life, she committed suicide at the age of 30. The writing of this period in the poet's life is dominated by anger, bitterness, hopelessness and violent images.
Even the sun-clouds this morning cannot manage such skirts.
Nor the woman in the ambulance
Whose red heart blooms through her coat so astoundingly --
A gift, a love gift
Utterly unasked for
By a sky
Palely and flamily
Igniting its carbon monoxides, by eyes
Dulled to a halt under bowlers.
O my God, what am I
That these late mouths should cry open
In a forest of frost, in a dawn of cornflowers.
Considering Plath's depressed state and her thoughts of suicide, this poem flashes with despair, with mention of the ambulance and the messy unmanageable life she lives. It was likely that the red heart that she refers to is the fact that she was always struggling with emotional pain, and bore a deeply wounded heart for her entire life.
First when her father died when she was eight and she never felt like she had ever pleased him and struggled with this guilt all her life, then when she married Ted Hughes and he cheated on her with another woman, this plunged her into a deeply desperate state of isolation and rejection feeding into her feelings of inadequacy that were already there, planted by her father.
This poem signifies to me another work that illustrates a male dominated society's disapproval of women like Sylvia, in the early 1960s, who were talented writers or chose to pursue professional careers while wanting to have families at the same time, were ordered back into the kitchen or marginalized and mocked.
"Plath's relationship with her husband supplied her with material for poems containing similarly violent imagery, where women are discussed as dolls and other objects of men's whimsy."
The final lines of the poem cries out for recognition from this male dominated society as to what offense the poet is guilty of committing. Why do they see her as such an abomination? She was, unfortunately, born too soon, had Sylvia Plath been a woman born 50 or so years later, she would have had a much different experience.