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“Lady Lazarus”


by Sylvia Plath, October 23-29, 1962

  I have done it again.
  One year in every ten
  I manage it—
  A sort of walking miracle, my skin
5 Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
  My right foot

A paperweight,

  My face a featureless, fine
  Jew linen.
10 Peel off the napkin
  O my enemy.
  Do I terrify? —

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?

  The sour breath
15 Will vanish in a day.
  Soon, soon the flesh
  The grave cave ate will be
  At home on me
  And I a smiling woman.
20 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.
25 What a million filaments.
  The peanut-crunching crowd
  Shoves in to see
  Them unwrap me hand and foot
  The big strip tease.
30 Gentlemen, ladies
  These are my hands
  My knees.
  I may be skin and bone,
  Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
35 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
40 As a seashell.
  They had to call and call
  And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
  Is an art, like everything else,
45 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.
50 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:
55 '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—
60 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.
65 So, so, Herr Doktor.
  So, Herr Enemy.
  I am your opus,
  I am your valuable,
  The pure gold baby


70 That melts to a shriek.
  I turn and burn.
  Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
  Ash, ash—
  You poke and stir.
75 Flesh, bone, there is nothing there—
  A cake of soap,
  A wedding ring,
  A gold filling.
  Herr God, Herr Lucifer
80 Beware
  Out of the ash
  I rise with my red hair
  And I eat men like air.