I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And what do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life.
And I am horribly limited.
~Sylvia Plath, from her journal
Sylvia Path died on this day, February 11th in 1963. Countless reviews of The Bell Jar have examined its autobiographical content and the foreshadowing of her suicide, so there’s no need to repeat all of that. For one loved by so many (even today) she seemed desperately alone. In many ways she felt closer to her books and writers of another age like Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence than the human beings around her. Ironically, she is known as one of the originators of confessional poetry and her writings still resonate with many who feel trapped inside of their own minds.
Rather than focus on the irredeemable past, our best service to Plath’s memory is to take the lessons presented and help those who are currently battling mental illness and depression. It’s easy to overlook people who suffer within their own minds. They are hiding from you on purpose.
God help us to be awake today and truly sensitive to those around us, to whom a word of kindness could mean quite literally, everything.
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
D I G D E E P E R
In “Lady Lazarus” Sylvia Plath fuses the experience of her earlier attempt at suicide with a criticism of the public’s sensationalistic, dehumanized interest in the disclosures after the Nazi holocaust.
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 face a 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 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 As a seashell. They had to call and call And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls. Dying 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 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 Or 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 Beware Beware. Out of the ash I rise with my red hair And I eat men like air.
23-29 October 1962