Monday, 31 August 2009

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time---
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,
Ghastly statue with one grey toe
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.
So I never could tell where you
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna
Are not very pure or true.
With my gypsy ancestress and my weird luck
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of *you*,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You---

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,
And they stuck me together with glue.
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I'm finally through.
The black telephone's off at the root,
The voices just can't worm through.

If I've killed one man, I've killed two---
The vampire who said he was you
and drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There's a stake in your fat, black heart
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.
They always *knew* it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I'm through.

-"Daddy", by Sylvia Plath.

* * *

Oh it hurts, it hurts, every time I read this poem.


Mary-Laure said...

This has long been one of my favorite poems. The Sylvia Plath mythology often outshines her genuine talent as a poet.
I have old tapes of her reading her own words. So moving.

Hila said...

I know what you mean Mary-Laure: the myths surrounding some authors often get too big for their boots. And it's a little condenscending as they undermine the true talent and power of the works themselves, in favour of some sensationalised idea of the poet and author.

danica said...

like mary-laure this is possibly my favourite plath poem. it's quite affecting hearing her read it as well. have you seen the sylvia biopic?

TeeTee said...

Beautiful :), thanks for sharing !

Christina Lowry said...

I love this poem too and love the controlled emotion in Plath's delivery.

The poem is so clever, this comparison of her father to a Nazi or Hitler and herself to a being 'a bit of a Jew'. Partly biographic and partly imagination, it is such a strong poem.

We studied this poem in high school. An interesting choice, don't you think? :)

Fine Little Day said...

Oh, how very nice.

Des said...

What an outstanding post. I hope that you will share some of your own poetry on here too.

Windy Days said...

I've been reading some of her letters and short stories, she has the most amazing way of writing about even the everyday things in life.
Thanks for sharing. :)

Duermevela said...

I'm reading Sylvia Plath too. She is amazing, and I love the way she reads her own poems.

Flowers in my hair said...

Thank you for your sweet comment *hugs*

Hila said...

Danica: yep, I have, I'm not sure what I think about it yet, it left me a bit indecisive about how it represented her.

TeeTee: I hope you've recovered from your blog loss!

Christina: it is such a clever poem, I love how she draws out these grand metaphors. I wish I got to study it in high school!

Fine Little Day: thank you :)

Des: perhaps ... I will need to gather my courage to share my poetry.

Windy Days: I so agree with you!

Duermevela: I know, her voice is haunting and strong.

Lucie Peacock said...

i love sylvia :)
although i used to hate her when i was younger. i wonder what changed?

Hila said...

I adore her Lucie. I've loved her since I was young, so I guess I haven't changed!