The Sylvia Plath Forum

Poems inspired by Sylvia Plath

Don't Strike a Match, Sylvia

Did you really believe you were a Jew, then?
But the Jews burned, you know, in their ovens
and the ovens were huge,
big enough to roast millions and millions
so the smoke spread around the world
like an eruption from Vesuvius or Krakatoa.

Cities were buried under the ashes, and people
are still being discovered
in strange poses
withered like bad seed
inside a husk of stone-cold lava,
shaped forever and ever by a single moment.

Doesnt that sound more like it? Like yourself,
I mean, still a victim of course,
but not a Jew,
and besides, you weren't religious
or political either, until you met your Hitler,
which brings us back to this thing about the oven.

Was it really just the easiest thing to do?
Couldn't you get any pills?
Or wasn't it planned?
Yes. You were scrubbing the floor maybe,
another floor in another flat not your own home,
and all the fault of that man that you were so down.

We all know that feeling, and who's to say why some
decide to go and others stay,
but you've got to admit
one way you go on living
and the other way you're finished with it,
and it's a fact that corpses don't get any poetry written.

I just want to get it straight whose alter
you thought you were kneeling at
with that pillow
under your cheek and your nostrils
sniffing for that fine perfume, the gas,
to come seeping out of the unlit oven.

Yes, we're back to the oven again, its important
the way you put your head in there
like a meatloaf
or one of your favorite
Betty Crocker peach pies, Sylvia,
but this time you didn't strike a match.

Edith Speers in "Overland", 1986


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