You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and 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 gray toe
Big as a Frisco seal

lord of the rings

And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off the 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 the 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 sacred of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.
And your neat mustache
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 with 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.

So here’s what I’m thinking this poem is about. Her father was gone before she had grown past being a little girl. He was a nazi. When she was little she saw him like all little girls see their fathers, this big god, or statue as she calls him, that has no flaw and cannot be defeated. As she grew up he wasn’t there for her to see his flaws, so she still sees him as this ideal that controls her life. Even though he’s gone and the villagers are stamping on his corpse. They didn’t like him, so he must have some flaws. She just can’t see them because he wasnever there.

The part about a model of him with a Meinkampf look… Does she see Hitler as a sort of scapegoat father? Did she look to the media and see Hitler and associate him with her dad because her father was a Nazi?




  1. poeticjaffacake said,

    February 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    The poem is kind of a meld of feelings about her father and her husband Ted Hughes.
    The further the poem progresses the more the focus shifts to Hughes who was cheating on her at the time of her writing this. Her father Otto Plath was a professor of Zoology in Boston, with no Nazi sympathies as far as I know. Sylvia was born in Massachusetts in 1932 before the rise of the Nazi’s. Hope this helps!

  2. paulie11 said,

    February 16, 2008 at 3:03 am

    I agree with poeticjaffacake. The reference to a mein kempf look is particularly telling. As careful as Sylvia Plath was with regard to syntax, it wouldn’t make sense for her to use that phrase to refer to hitler. She is saying this man is like hitler but is in fact a different man.
    Paulie11 from inside the Snakepit

  3. mr english said,

    March 1, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    poeticjaffacake and paulie11: you’re both accurate; however, don’t get stuck on reading only with biographical and historical references in hand. think about what the text means to ‘them, there, then,’ versus ‘us, here, now’ (robert scholes). play with different ways of reading…the better texts seem to sustain multiple approaches. in this case, one must consider the historical nazi reference on its own merits, even as fruitful personal biography is to the reading as well. can you sustain both without dismissing either?

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