Friday, October 9, 2015

Two Poems by Sylvia Plath

The Applicant

First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,

Stitches to show something's missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Stop crying.
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand

To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed

To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit –

Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they'll bury you in it.

Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that?
Naked as paper to start

But in twenty-five years she'll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk, talk.

It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it's a poultice.
You have an eye, it's an image.
My boy, it's your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.

Lady Lazarus

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 featureless, fine 
Jew linen.  

Peel off the napkin 
O 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 in foot—
The big strip tease. 
Gentleman , 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.  

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 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 on 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,

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair 
And I eat men like air. 

Sylvia Plath has 12 collections of poetry, most of them published posthumously: The Colossus, Heinemann (London, England), 1960, published as The Colossus and Other Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 1962; (Editor) American Poetry Now (supplement number 2 to Critical Quarterly,) Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1961; Uncollected Poems (booklet), Turret Books (London, England), 1965; Ariel, Faber (London, England), 1965, Harper (New York, NY), 1966; Wreath for a Bridal (limited edition), Sceptre Press, 1970; Crossing the Water: Transitional Poems, Harper (New York, NY), 1971; Crystal Gazer and Other Poems (limited edition), Rainbow Press (London, England), 1971; Lyonnesse (limited edition), Rainbow Press (London, England), 1971; Million Dollar Month (limited edition), Sceptre Press, 1971; Winter Trees, Faber (London, England), 1971, Harper (New York, NY), 1972; Collected Poems, edited by Ted Hughes, Harper (New York, NY), 1981; Stings (drafts), Smith College (Northampton, MA), 1983.

Her poetry has been included in anthologies, including The New Yorker Book of Poems, Viking, 1969. Early Poems, a collection of Plath's work, was published as the May, 1967, issue of Harvard Advocate; 50 of her early unpublished poems appeared in Times Literary Supplement, July 31, 1969; the posthumously published poem "Ennui" debuted in Blackbird, November, 2006.

Other publications include (Under pseudonym Victoria Lucas) The Bell Jar (novel), Heinemann (London, England), 1963, published under real name, Faber (London, England), 1965, Harper (New York, NY), 1971; Three Women: A Monologue for Three Voices (radio play; broadcast on British Broadcasting Corporation in 1962; limited edition), Turret Books, 1968; Letters Home: Correspondence, 1950-1963, selected and edited with a commentary by mother, Aurelia Schober Plath, Harper (New York, NY), 1975; The Bed Book (for children), Harper (New York, NY), 1976; Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose, and Diary Excerpts, Harper (New York, NY), 1979; The Journals of Sylvia Plath, edited by Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1983; The It-Doesn't-Matter Suit (for children), illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1996; The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962, edited by Karen V. Kukil, Anchor Books (New York, NY), 2000.

She was a contributor to periodicals, including The New York Review of Books, Christian Science Monitor, Mademoiselle, Harper's Magazine, Nation, Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, London Magazine, The Observer, Encounter, and others. (Most of the aforementioned biographical information is from Poetry Foundation).

Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932 - February 11, 1963)

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