Sylvia Plath’s Daddy – Who Wasn’t But Should’ve Been





 You do not do, you do not do

Any more, black shoe

In which I have lived like a foot,

For thirty years, poor & 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 pour green bean 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 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 moustache

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 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.


_Sylvia Plath


Any man can be a father, but not all are dads


Sylvia Plath committed suicide by putting her head in a gas oven while her two children slept in the next room. She was 30 years old. She had suffered from severe depression since her teens and had been treated with sleeping pills and ECT. She was an insomniac. Her husband, the poet Ted Hughes, left her for another woman. Sylvia struggled to care for their two young children, and to earn enough money, while continuing to write.  Sylvia Plath was not close to her possessive mother, and her father, who was extremely strict,  died when she was eight. During the early stages of her treatment, she was advised not to have any contact with her mother. Ted Hughes remarried, and his second wife also committed suicide, four years after their marriage.

Sylvia Plath’s son, Nicholas, killed himself in 2009; he had a history of depression.

See  ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song; Sylvia Plath And Life Before Ted’


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