Daddy



(After Sylvia Plath)


I’ve buried Daddy in the green-blue sea,

beside fat walruses and concrete blocks

for those who refused an offer they couldn’t refuse.


He marched in three-quarter time, goose-stepped

his way past blankets of roses, petals nibbled

by a fungus black as his heart, as his crooked mind


that taught me how to lie on paper. My poems

owe him nothing a fat burgher couldn’t hand

to a struggling sculptor with his casts of bronze.


Daddy, you had me at birth, taught Mother to sing

Schubert leider as lullabies. The high notes shattered

the glass of my rattles, teethed in innocent dreams.


I walked through Dachau, the timber freshly blonde,

showers sealed shut, shoes piled in shadow, films

replaying the grisly decorum of the dead. Sieg heil!


I’ve written in blood at your feet, tottered through precious

pools, smeared my name into “S.S.,” spied on myself,

pledged allegiance to red, which I wore in my hair, uncovered.


Help me find my way forward, Daddy, past the rubble from

the bombs, past the ruffled egos bent on devilish designs, shoring up

the Reich-sprechen that tumbles from your broken mouth.


Daddy, when did love wrap you in its charms, squeeze the hollow

of your neck, make you punish me for ways of the wicked

I never knew? Daddy, did you clutch my drawings as geld?


I married a man just like you, not bald, but with a hawk nose that could

sniff out weaknesses in my mind. He bruised me with his embrace,

turned English into Deutsch, a Wiccan of the written word. Ach du.


Doom, doom, doom weighed me down like the limp rag doll

I cherished. Your face beamed beneath her straw-red hair,

your lips puckered to pronounce an armistice of hate.


My German friends tell me you were a hero of das Volk, upholding

banners of fascism in the streets of Berlin, lurking in the alleyways

of London, where ovens sprang into action. I sealed the door tight,


but your cigar smoke seeped through the wood, ashes heaped

in the crematoria, burnt umber your shade of black. I wrote my

epitaph in Greek, then translated it to Anglo-Saxon: It’s a gas, gas, gas.

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