Friday, August 3, 2007

"Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

Tonight is dark and stormy. Too rainy to really go out, which is perfect Sylvia Plath weather. So, as my last poem for bookeywookey's challenge, here we go. Don't forget to go to his site, where you can see all the participants!

"Daddy" by Sylvia Plath

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 gray 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 gipsy 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.

I chose this poem as one that's difficult for me. But, let's be honest. It's an incredible piece of writing. The rhythm alone-the words just throb. Throb with ache, and pain, and rage. Then there's the imagery. Stunning. From the Nazi-Jew to the vampire, Plath never lets up. The images just get darker and darker, bringing the reader into a deeper hole. The last stanza gives me goosebumps. I just keep repeating it to myself over and over.

I think that I'm going to end the analysis there. Plath knew how to write. She channeled all of her emotions into words that make the reader understand what she's going through. And so I'm going to let the poem stand for itself; I don't see any room for improvement.


Ted said...

wow, you're so right. I didn't know this one - it's cruel and relentless but weirdly, the rhyme and rhythm create a feel for me that is almost like an awful comic children's story - which makes it all the more horrible.

Dewey said...

I've always loved this poem. I've heard a recording of her reading it, and it's just amazingly powerful.

Eva said...

Ted, I agree-the rhythm certainly invokes a sing-song, child-like tone. Definitely adds to the creepiness factor!

Dewey, that'd be an incredible recording!