A Phoenix… or two…

We have a Phoenix… he seems to be in a perpetual state of burn whenever we have visitors, but he has a lovely gigantic black cage to live in which hangs in the corner of our living room…

This poem, written by Sylvia Plath, seemed appropriate to read in the sudden presence of this mythical firebird, which stands for being reborn and seeing the way forward.

In it Sylvia refers to the Holocaust, citing lines that portray the feeling of hopeless victimisation, she talks of her suicide attempts and the way that those around her have come to view her attempts and the scars they have left as a spectacle, and her miraculous comebacks as theatrical performances.

The end though, shouts a warning to God and Lucifer, as she declares that she will come back, she will rise from the ashes, and she will be stronger for it. Just as the Phoenix will rise from the ashes, and be reborn, so will she…


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.

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 had 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

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

Sylvia Plath 1962

A slightly dreary and somewhat controversial poem I know, but ultimately it portrays strength and rebirth, and I think that although Sylvia was obviously writing about dark times, she was likely writing in a moment of her own strength.

So to lighten things up here’s a little something about a different type of bird…Not funny? Sorry… I’ll try harder next time…


~ by Alissa Anderton on September 8, 2010.

3 Responses to “A Phoenix… or two…”

  1. No, it’s funny and you can try another and another one.. Will be cool all of them.

    Dy, ♪. ♫♥♪.♫♥♪. ♫♥♪.♫

  2. Haha, I never thought I would see Big Bird in a predicament like that.

  3. first time I read that one. quite moving in it’s way. third time now . bit emotional and thinking I should have read it without drinking. anyway, much respect to miss Plath.

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