Lady Lazarus by Sylvia Plath * Poetry

o-sylvia-plath-photos-facebookI 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
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?——

944273_399121096866572_72379005_n.jpgThe 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.

sylvia_plathWhat 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

sylvia-plath-en-yorkshire.jpgAs 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.

df9f78fdf0907a6b82c1923c1723db92.jpgI 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

f983d79eeb52fa8f24598b03b866351d.jpgOr 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

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


As far as the poetry world goes, Sylvia Plath is a superstar. She was born in Boston in 1932 went to the all-girls Smith College. She then received a Fulbright Scholarship (fancy), moved to England, and met and fell head-over-heels in love with poet Ted Hughes. They married in 1956. They had two kids, went to a lot of parties, and Plath wrote a whole lot of awesome poems and a novel (The Bell Jar) all before turning thirty. Awesome, right?

Well not quite, because, as you know by now, Plath killed herself in 1963. And her life was not all that rosy. Her father died when she was very young, and she suffered from depression her whole life. She had even tried to commit suicide several times before.

“Lady Lazarus,” a poem that Plath wrote in 1962 not long before her death, is one of the most amazingly tortured and beautiful and powerful poems of all time (really, we are not exaggerating), and it comes directly out of Plath’s angst.

Unfortunately, because Plath’s life was so interesting and tragic, people have the tendency to let her biography (more specifically, her suicide) overshadow her work. Though this is understandable—”Lady Lazarus” is a poem about suicide and resurrection, after all—it would be a huge mistake to ignore Plath’s actual poetry. Plath’s legacy endures because her poems are awesome, tragic, completely bizarre, perverse, and heartbreaking all on their own and all at the same time. And that’s why we’re still reading her today.

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