Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“The female seer will burn upon this pyre”

Sylvia Plath is setting my hair
on rollers made from orange-juice cans.
The hairdo is shaped like a pyre.

My locks are improbably long.
A pyramid of lemons somehow
balances on the rickety table

where we sit, in the rented kitchen
which smells of singed naps and bergamot.
Sylvia Plath is surprisingly adept

at rolling my unruly hair.
She knows to pull it tight.Few words.
Her flat, American belly,

her breasts in a twin sweater set,
stack of typed poems on her desk,
envelopes stamped to go by the door,

a freshly baked poppyseed cake,
kitchen safety matches, black-eyed Susans
in a cobalt jelly jar. She speaks a word,

“immolate,” then a single sentence
of prophecy. The hairdo done,
the nursery tidy, the floor swept clean

of burnt hair and bumblebee husks.

“The female seer will burn upon this pyre” Copyright �© 2001 by Elizabeth Alexander. Reprinted from Antebellum Dream Book, with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota,

I have forgiven Ms. Alexander for the inauguration. It isn't her fault that my Barack likes her best. Besides, after E. Arnold's the poem on Poetry and all the Elizabeth-poetry-chicks' general sensibilities, I feel like my admiration must outweigh my envy. It wouldn't be the first time that my digressive, associative way of connecting disparate entities damned or absolved the whole lot.

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