(Part Four, the final chapter)
There are many who seem to think of the darkness within them, and all around, as being something of comfort that they can live with. Sometimes they embrace the depths of this darkness so much that it is a part of them. It follows them around like a terrifying shadow which then leads to manic depression and strange episodes which prompt others to believe that these people are losing their minds.
Yet it is no real loss of the senses. It is merely a newer window into a form of creative genius that most dare not tap into. For when they do, they do not tame and properly reconcile with their personal demons, this rare chance to finally see the light gives rise to the most disturbing works of literature ever produced.
Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932-September 11, 1963) was a woman who thrived within her blackened shell. She wrote guided by her dark passenger’s hand and thus questioned much of what was possible to say within the poetic circle. This was not the horror of the supernatural that Poe was in love with but a new kind of terrifying subject had found its way into her world. This was the creation of a swirling vortex of the deep, dramatic and disturbing. Death, cruelty and even a form of anti-Nazism found their way into her writings.
Her images may be of the heart, sometimes of God, but they are in no way pleasant.
Today the WFR team brings to you a poet who is considered by most to be the patron saint of self-dramatization and self-pity.
You do not do, you do not do Any more, black shoeIn 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
And a head in the freakish Atlantic
Where it pours bean green over blue
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.
I used to pray to recover you.
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 gipsy 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 scared 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.
It is thus extremely clear from this narrative work that Plath was deeply resentful of her father for being a Nazi supporter. He was, after all, German, named Otto Plath. He was also over two decades older than her mother Aurelia, which might have meant something to Plath herself. Clearly the narrative, which is full of short, abrupt sentences tells us that she is driving her point into us hard, and dramatically to boot.
The word “black” shows up a number of times. It is obviously a show of personal darkness, and the darkness inside her because of her father. She blames him openly for her suicide attempts. She had done many of these during her episodes of depression. By calling herself a “Jew” she is using a word for the term hatred since she hates him, and it makes him hate her as well.
(Another of these…about Ishwari herself now…..)
“So tell me why you dare to cower before the one who turned your spine into an iron rod.”
“Parashakti please! You were never meant to stay back here, I thought you didn’t have to come back here anymore.” Ishwari was weeping bitterly, but she couldn’t look at the abominable apparition that darkened the room. “Mother, you shouldn’t be here, it’s not natural! You’re scaring your grandchild!”
“And it was you who burdened her with something so powerful as a curse!”
Parashakti snarled at her daughter, and reached down to Ishwari’s ankles. The living woman drew back again in terror as her mother started taking on a solid form, something that she knew could touch her. Only her touch made her skin crawl. She locked her eyes, not even daring to scream, and ringing metallic clangs filled the bedroom, an orchestra that chilled the blood to the lowest degree.
Ishwari shut her eyes, but she still saw her mother bending down and tighten the manacle she made specifically for them. She saw Parashakti’s body becoming so solid that the day of her death was clearer now.
Ishwari could even smell the ominous sweetness of camphor, coconut oil and kerosene in the room. Her mother’s screams of madness had turned into roars as she cursed at her disease as it took over her body with terrifying speed. The cries pierced Ishwari’s heart like a knife as she ran out of her mother’s bedroom, and onto the street.
Now there was nowhere to turn, nobody to turn to either. But the flames shot up through the bedroom window, the stately, albeit still maddened woman clutching her burning, oil-stained sari against her body and racing out of their house. “What are you doing? What is this?” shouted the sixteen-year-old in protest as the crawling, clawing bundle of burning humanity tried to reach for her. But she only kept feeding her flames with more oil that she had stored in a tiny bottle.
“I…trained you….to be powerful!…Ishwari…Ishwari Ramakrishna…if you cry I will hunt you down and…kill you….” The disjointed voice was swallowing her up, and it was indeed her mother’s. But this burning monster couldn’t be talking through her murderous yells.
She had been backed into the alley near their house, and some of the beggars there tried to extend their hands to her. But the flaming, tottering monster who had fallen down in a heap at her daughter’s feet was practically Kali incarnate. They were unable to even move in without fearing death at any minute.
“Mother…Para…Parashakti….you,” she tried her best to bite back tears as she hid her face in her blanket, “you…you were the richest devadasi of them all! Why did you have to do this and leave me alone? You are the one who wanted to turn me into a sex-crazed demon like yourself! But this? And in front of me? Why?”
“I wanted you to be strong!! BE STRONG! I live within you!” screamed the devilish voice once more, although it was obvious that the scarred and charred carcass was not the one who was saying it. “We had our nights together, I showed you how it was to dominate any man you met! Look how they’re looking at you now,” the monster kept stabbing her daughter with her words. The alley became as dark as hell to Ishwari.
Soldiers who had been on their nightly city patrol were rushing to the aid of some of the servants who were struggling to make it out of the inferno…
One or two offered to carry Ishwari, but she could only feel their hands as sweaty clamps trying to break into her again and make her shriek in pain…the same way Parashakti watched with cold eyes as her daughter bled out in torrents under the power of the drunk nattuvanar. He had roared maliciously like a raging tiger as he pinned her down and gored her with his manhood, the tearing pain shooting from her legs to her chest as he bore his great weight on her young breasts. Then came the climax.
Sharp teeth and nails caught hold of the drunkard’s neck and he screamed as she used all her strength to attack him, ripping his skin as a vortex of anger, sorrow and pain swelled in her.
“Well done,” was all Parashakti had said, pulling the bleeding man off her horrifically broken daughter, “now you can be stronger than any man you chose to be with. Clean up that blood you young fool, clean it up! Never let him inside you, never let him cross the line when it comes to sex. Women are prayed to, as mothers we are goddesses, we undergo hardship to bring about life, and we continue to suffer as the men around us keep gathering wives like cattle, only to mate with us and enslave us. They might have several men and women in their lives, all to treat as playthings. So remember that…”
Her scream was ten times more powerful now than it was then.
“MOTHER STOP IT PLEASE!” Yashodha was crying as only frightened children could cry, burying her head in the protective folds of the sheet.
Ishwari’s moans of agony tore above the cries of her poor daughter.
She still shut her eyes and her tears flowed freely down her cheeks. “I strengthened you! Never fall in love if you are to be on top, to be a strong woman! We must always be powerful and beautiful, carry our heads high and beat down whoever male idiots who cross us, let no man be above you, in life or in bed. You’re just an ordinary woman, small before everything more powerful than yourself. Will you jump on a bloody pyre when the father of your brat dies?” Parashakti snapped coldly. “Abandon that other woman of yours! The women of our family were never meant to find true love, and that heartless northern witch will never love you back. She will be the reason for your undoing, Ishwari. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Why else would we be tied by an iron chain? Every feeling of love you have towards her strengthens it and every time you resent…”
Her daughter lifted her head slowly. “Resent? Resent? I…That’s an understatement, I…I want you to burn in hell!” Ishwari growled. “You were always a monster to me, my sisters and I all hated you, but they were lucky! I had to suffer, I was a girl and the youngest, a double curse upon me.” She straightened her back. “Let me and my daughter find real love! I don’t care if I have to die, but the woman I want shall be mine, and when I’ve lain with her I’ll spit on your grave.”
( Because I can think of nothing else to post!)
Minakshi stopped stirring the food in the pot for a second. She saw the steadily lifting mist, although the city still seemed dark to her, the Temple’s titanic tower like a black behemoth ambling slowly towards her house, only to be concealed from her view once more.
Shutting her eyes she told her maid, “Subadhra, send a message to my brother Vasudev. I want to meet him. And tell him to bring my son with him.” And she lapsed into silence, with the middle-aged Subadhra flinging her broom aside and rushing off out of the kitchen.
Ishwari was restless. She had been lapsing between sleeping and waking for so long that she was now bathed in sweat, choli and sari sticking to her skin. Fanning a sheaf of dried banana leaves in front of her and her little daughter, she once more lay on the bed with a gasp. The girl was still half-asleep but she stirred anyway, the small size of the room and the throbbing amalgam of feelings welled up in her mother’s heart, crushing the child inside.
“Mother?” /the three-year old questioned innocently as Ishwari fanned the two of them faster. “Are you alright? Please tell me…” Her mother just kept fanning her, but then sat bolt upright, almost pushing the girl off the bed. “How in the world could I be alright…? I….” Looking at the child with a crazed gaze, she crushed the fan in her hand, reducing the dried leaf to nothing. But her expression then softened a degree when she saw her daughter’s wide-eyed look of fear.
“I’m sorry,” she continued, “but I haven’t been myself lately! I don’t know what’s coming over me! It’s like…I met that Minakshi today and she told me her husband walked off. I should be happy to hear that, and yet I feel like it’s crushing me to death, child! Why?” She grabbed the girl firmly, almost shaking her and making her scream.
“Why not? I could have any woman or man I desired, but the one I want the most, is still so far away from me! What’s wrong with you Minakshi, that you must stay forever far away? What makes you tick? What makes you shy away?”
She dashed to her dresser, with her kohl, oils, jewelry and makeup and turned her mirror towards her. Flinging the cosmetics onto her she then looked at herself in the polished surface of the mirror. “Why? Am I not beautiful enough my darling child? Am I not beautiful enough…for her…? Minakshi, Minakshi, what should I be to make you mine at last? It’s like I’m not good enough for you and yet somehow I must be, I’m, I’m supposed to be!” Thrusting the coconut oil away, she just let her hair droop as she lowered her head onto the dresser.
Ishwari was right. She had almost always been an extraordinary beauty, more than her peers. Her Brahman superiors has told her and so had her teachers. Shiny cinnamon skin, firm but soft, and a winsome dancer’s body with a slim waist and inviting hips, almost any sari or any other piece of the South Indian sari costume looked perfect on her. Men had desired her as a young girl and not just as an adult woman. It was only to be expected of course.
And she’d entertained them all.
“Yashodha,” she finally told her daughter, “my child, tell me why she and only she was my enemy!”
“Mother you’re scaring me!”
“That’s what I told her, damn it! She always pushed me down, beat me till I bled, half murdered me when I disagreed with her, she, my mother, she just never let me catch a break at all! Now she’s dead, I…I don’t expect you to know this Yashodha; whatever I, your mother, am going through, just become stronger and never hate me.” Her voice became dreamy as Yashodha nodded meekly, her own large eyes falling on a familiar scene. “It’s almost a reflection, isn’t it?” questioned Ishwari through gritted teeth, leaning against the wall, head in her hands as she sank onto the floor. “ISN’T IT MOTHER? I was the one on the bed, and you…you…”
How long she stared at the ceiling she did not know, but when she saw a hand stretching towards her she saw what it was. “I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming.” She shut her eyes so hard that they teared up, squeezing the salty liquid down her cheeks.
“If you are dreaming, then why am I still in this house?” The voice stung her directly, and she, through her blurry sight saw a huge manacle around her ankle, and holding the manacle was a handsome, stately woman with a sharp nose and hair flowing down her back. She was of dark complexion, slightly darker than Ishwari, but just as beautiful. However her beauty had a fierceness to it, like she was a cruel goddess who thirsted for blood, not just a woman. The sparkle in her eyes was twice as terrifying as an out of control flame up close. She consumed Ishwari just through looking at the other woman.
“Really Ishwari, we both made ourselves powerful through completely dominating all our men during sex, so much that they wanted punishment to be their pleasure. And is this the kind of image you present to your mother? THAT? My dearest….my dearest daughter, please tell me, how is it that this chain seems to become more powerful whenever you…”
Ishwari struggled to hold back her tears.
“SILENCE PARASHAKTI! I don’t want to have anything to do with you and your damned demonic punishments. The years under your roof were torture enough. Why did you build this accursed thing in the first place?”
“Tsk, tsk. I only came to see my daughter and my granddaughter, that’s all. Anyway let’s begin now…” Her voice became dangerously reptilian, taking on the sound of steel scraping against gravel.
And Ishwari felt that she was the gravel.
(I’m back again with my reinterpreted Sri Lankan ‘demon’, a suffering man, who despite his terrible plight, is still powerful enough to resist almost all physical attacks)
He kept watching from the tangled undergrowth, stalking the herdsman persistently. The old man was frail and bony, with a slightly protruding belly, all of which showed him that his victim was facing some kind of disease. And this disease had made the poor herder partially malnourished. Even his stick looked like it was facing famine of some sort, being worn and stubby at the end.
However, he pushed on, loudly raising his voice as he sang.
The predator drew in closer, the tangle of branches and overhanging foliage still masking him from the buffaloes and their master.
Thoughtfully, he groped around for something large and powerful, a rock perhaps. His meat had run out, and now was the chance to get some. His stomach began to growl in anger as he cursed under his breath. Hunger was the greatest driving force of all in the hellish wilds of Malayadesha and the neighboring hillside jungles.
And he’d been taught that it alone would keep him alert and fit throughout his life, long or short.
Slowly watching his prey move by, he listened hard. The chorus of crickets and frogs was overwhelming to his ears, just like it had been all those years ago…
“The hunt is like meditation,” she tells the boy at her side as she slips easily through the jungle, “not that I was some pretentious saint who would sit starving for months, but it’s the easiest way to tell you what it is.” The boy with her is obviously her son.
He is scarred by some strange, unknown disease. He is horrifying, his face a dark, puckered and scarred mass, but his physique is powerful, less on the defined side but still muscular like a wrestler. Obviously he never cared about the athletic beauty of the fisher boy, toned through pulling in huge nets and rowing against treacherous rapids. Nor the rice farmer’s slim son, on the gaunt side but still a head-turner, sun-burnt skin gleaming on his near-naked body.
Fourteen though he is, this is someone who would prefer to use his elephantine bulk and tremendous mass to take on his prey with his bare hands than to have young women fawn over a sleek and trim form that is useful for running but not always for fighting.
This boy has no time for girls, neither does he see any up close. So he imagines some of the women whom he gets a glimpse of on some of his hunts, lying with him on some nights, allowing him inside them. But wait. Now is not the time for pleasure. That will have to wait. Right now he fixes his gaze on his mother, who hisses, “Now tell me, what is it we are after?”
“Cattle. Five cattle with at least two men, walking off to a waterhole. The tracks and their voices tell us they are able-bodied, strong men who can defend their herd. There is one lame cow. She has a bad right hind leg, so we should be able to fell her if we strike her there.” He seems to smile in satisfaction, and his mother kisses his deformed face gently, her eyes softening for an instant.
She sighs, “I have taught you all too well. One day you might hunt me and kill me too if you can”-her sly, apparently false smile changes- “and I believe you can. But right now, let’s focus on lunch.” Eagerly, she undoes her scant cloth, and pulls out a massive knife from a small leather pouch tied to her hip.
Now the boy wants to imagine this superpredator in action.
She is lithe and powerful despite her thinness, and she is more an animal than a woman. A leopardess without spots, she is liquid death in the depths of the forest. And he knows that she is brutal, relentless. The thrill of the chase, the splash of blood against her breasts, the snapping of her vicious teeth and the feeling of soft flesh raked away beneath uncut nails.
The woman looks at the trail once more.
She curses silently in Sanskrit as she looks at the vegetation. Someone has trampled it carelessly. A cow has also taken a toilet stop. Eager to carry on, she beckons him. “Dung,” she tells him as she scoops some of the warm, fresh mass into her hands, “is a good way to track. But you know that, don’t you my dear?” Her smile sets him on the alert. He was uneasy, like she would whip her knife against his neck and slice his jugular.
“I…know,” he mumbles…and they carry on the hunt. His hopes are fixed on the kill, of tasting fresh meat once more…
“You taught me well enough,” he hissed as he passed above the cattle on a rise of rock, “but I just prefer a cleaner kill to you bloody slash-and-disembowel. His wooden club, practically the trunk of a small tree, was ready. He looked around once or twice, tensing his muscles as he determined his angle of attack. The buffaloes and the herdsman had no clue that he was there.
But the youngest bull was setting him off a bit. That damned beast seemed so self-assured that the monstrous man could practically feel the confidence in its heart as its muddied horns strained to gleam in the fast-fading moonlight.
Damned animals had it good.
The herd was just below him.
He pounced. Quickly, the herder reacted in the only way that he knew. The attack was so swift that the poor old man tried to strike with his stick, but ended up whacking one of his animals in the face.
Startled, he looked in fear as the buffalo grunted, then growled under its breath, threatening to charge. But he had hardly any idea what was happening to one of his most valued herd members. The young bull was being pounded mercilessly, blows raining on its head, into its eyes and nose. Once or twice it attempted to rise up against its attacker.
The buffalo’s screams of pain were like some primal cry from the depths of hell, carrying off into the night as it struggled to overcome its brutal opponent. This club was tougher than the killer had thought.
This was his life.
He laughed with glee as the animal’s mouth bled and he grabbed its horns, twisting its head and neck around. Those arms bore unnatural power, as he remembered. And this was what they were for.