The Surgeon at 2 A.M.

Plath, Sylvia

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jul-13-1996


This poem is in the surgeon's voice. He surveys his country's terrain, "a garden I have to do with--tubers and fruits / Oozing their jammy substances . . . . " He delves into the patient's organs, "I worm and hack in a purple wilderness." He admires the sunset-colored blood and the "blue piping" that conducts it through the body's intricate maze. When he removes a part of the body, it is sent to the lab ("a pathological salami") and "entombed in an icebox." The surgeon walks through the ward, casting his eyes on the sleeping patients: "I am the sun," he says, " . . . Grey faces, shuttered by drugs, follow me like flowers."


The surgeon's power manifested in striking images. He has perfected the body, but has never seen the soul, as he walks through the dead of the night in lonely splendor. While the poem doesn't indicate the surgeon's gender, it seems clearly masculine.

Primary Source

Crossing the Water


Harper & Row

Place Published

New York