Lady Lazarus

9 10 2007

   I have done it again.
   One year in every ten
   I manage it—-
  
   A sort of walking miracle, my skin
   Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
   My right foot
  
   A paperweight,
   My face a featureless, fine
   Jew linen.
  
   Peel off the napkin
   0 my enemy.
   Do I terrify?—-
  
   The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
   The sour breath
   Will vanish in a day.
  
   Soon, soon the flesh
   The grave cave ate will be
   At home on me
  
   And I a smiling woman.
   I am only thirty.
   And like the cat I have nine times to die.
  
   This is Number Three.
   What a trash
   To annihilate each decade.
  
   What a million filaments.
   The peanut-crunching crowd
   Shoves in to see
  
   Them unwrap me hand and foot
   The big strip tease.
   Gentlemen, ladies
  
   These are my hands
   My knees.
   I may be skin and bone,
  
   Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
   The first time it happened I was ten.
   It was an accident.
  
   The second time I meant
   To last it out and not come back at all.
   I rocked shut
  
   As a seashell.
   They had to call and call
   And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
  
   Dying
   Is an art, like everything else,
   I do it exceptionally well.
  
   I do it so it feels like hell.
   I do it so it feels real.
   I guess you could say I’ve a call.
  
   It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
   It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
   It’s the theatrical
  
   Comeback in broad day
   To the same place, the same face, the same brute
   Amused shout:
  
   ‘A miracle!’
   That knocks me out.
   There is a charge
  
   For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
   For the hearing of my heart—-
   It really goes.
  
   And there is a charge, a very large charge
   For a word or a touch
   Or a bit of blood
  
   Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
   So, so, Herr Doktor.
   So, Herr Enemy.
  
   I am your opus,
   I am your valuable,
   The pure gold baby
  
   That melts to a shriek.
   I turn and burn.
   Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
  
   Ash, ash —
   You poke and stir.
   Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—-
  
   A cake of soap,
   A wedding ring,
   A gold filling.
  
   Herr God, Herr Lucifer
   Beware
   Beware.
  
   Out of the ash
   I rise with my red hair
   And I eat men like air.

— Sylvia Plath

I can’t even begin to explain how I love the poetry of Sylvia Plath.  Or how amazed I am at her.  I don’t envy her.  If you want death so badly to actually stick your head into an oven, that’s totally heavy stuff.  But the poetry, man!  A poem that overflows with issues and reeks of pain and suffering but is bound loosely in very light packaging such as Lady Lazarus could come only from one of the best, if not the only one.  She talks of death and of her attempts to really die with a casual allusion to the Jews and to the Nazi as if she’s just talking about how a mundane day went by. 

But she died.  And she orchestrated the whole thing exceptionally well, indeed.

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