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About this Poem 

“This is one of a series of self-portraiture poems that are part of a larger manuscript of poems about painting. I am gullible to the fetishizing of human relics—hair, teeth, bones—and who has been more fetishized than Plath? I like to believe our poems’ edges are honed when we rescind physical beauty and its dubious benefits.”
—Diane Seuss

Self-Portrait with Sylvia Plath’s Braid

Some women make a pilgrimage to visit it
in the Indiana library charged to keep it safe.

I didn’t drive to it; I dreamed it, the thick braid
roped over my hands, heavier than lead.

My own hair was long for years.
Then I became obsessed with chopping it off,

and I did, clear up to my ears. If hair is beauty
then I am no longer beautiful.

Sylvia was beautiful, wasn’t she?
And like all of us, didn’t she wield her beauty

like a weapon? And then she married,
and laid it down, and when she was betrayed

and took it up again it was a word-weapon,
a poem-sword. In the dream I fasten

her braid to my own hair, at my nape.
I walk outside with it, through the world

of men, swinging it behind me like a tail.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 25, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Diane Seuss

Diane Seuss

Diane Seuss was born in Michigan City, Indiana, in 1956 and raised in Edwardsburg and Niles, Michigan. She studied at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University, where she received a master’s degree in social work. Seuss is the author of three books of poetry: Four-Legged Girl (Graywolf Press, 2015); Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open (University of Massachusetts Press, 2010), recipient of the Juniper Prize for Poetry; and It Blows You Hollow (New Issues Press, 1998).

by this poet

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What is it you feel I asked Kurt when you listen to
Ravel’s String Quartet in F-major, his face was so lit up
and I wondered, “the music is unlike the world I live
or think in, it’s from somewhere else, unfamiliar and unknown,
not because it is relevant to the familiar and comfortable,
but

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There is a force that breaks the body, inevitable,
the by-product is pain, unexceptional as a rain
gauge, which has become arcane, rhyme, likewise,
unless it’s assonant or internal injury, gloom, joy,
which is also a dish soap, but not the one that rids
seabirds of oil from wrecked tankers

2
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The barber, with his mug of warm foam, his badger-hair brush.

My mother and sister and me and the dog, leashed with a measure
of anchor rope, in the hospital parking lot, waving good-bye
to my father from his window on the 7th floor.

Just him and his tumor, rare