I'm competing in the poetry category for my speech team in a week. We're allowed to do more than one to fill 5-10 minutes. You read/act out a poem(s) of your choice.
Now I've been thinking of doing a compilation about forced conformity. I would open it with Sylvia Plath's The Applicant, then do The Magdalene Laundries (A Joni Mitchell song) and close with Plath's The Courage of Shutting up after which I will tack on a stanza of her The Bee Meeting to give it some closure. These judges are all amateurs so it has to really make sense. What do you all think? Here are the pieces:
First, are you our sort of a person?
Do you wear
A glass eye, false teeth or a crutch,
A brace or a hook,
Rubber breasts or a rubber crotch,
Stitches to show something's missing? No, no? Then
How can we give you a thing?
Open your hand.
Empty? Empty. Here is a hand
To fill it and willing
To bring teacups and roll away headaches
And do whatever you tell it.
Will you marry it?
It is guaranteed
To thumb shut your eyes at the end
And dissolve of sorrow.
We make new stock from the salt.
I notice you are stark naked.
How about this suit----
Black and stiff, but not a bad fit.
Will you marry it?
It is waterproof, shatterproof, proof
Against fire and bombs through the roof.
Believe me, they'll bury you in it.
Now your head, excuse me, is empty.
I have the ticket for that.
Come here, sweetie, out of the closet.
Well, what do you think of that ?
Naked as paper to start
But in twenty-five years she'll be silver,
In fifty, gold.
A living doll, everywhere you look.
It can sew, it can cook,
It can talk, talk , talk.
It works, there is nothing wrong with it.
You have a hole, it's a poultice.
You have an eye, it's an image.
My boy, it's your last resort.
Will you marry it, marry it, marry it.
The Magdalene Laundries
I was an unmarried girl
Id just turned twenty-seven
When they sent me to the sisters
For the way men looked at me
Branded as a jezebel
I knew I was not bound for heaven
Id be cast in shame
Into the magdalene laundries
Most girls come here pregnant
Some by their own fathers
Bridget got that belly
By her parish priest
Were trying to get things white as snow
All of us woe-begotten-daughters
In the streaming stains
Of the magdalene laundries
Prostitutes and destitutes
And temptresses like me--
Sentenced into dreamless drudgery ...
Why do they call this heartless place
Our lady of charity?
These bloodless brides of jesus
If they had just once glimpsed their groom
Then theyd know, and theyd drop the stones
Concealed behind their rosaries
They wilt the grass they walk upon
They leech the light out of a room
Theyd like to drive us down the drain
At the magdalene laundries
Peg oconnell died today
She was a cheeky girl
They just stuffed her in a hole!
Surely to God youd think at least some bells should ring!
One day Im going to die here too
And theyll plant me in the dirt
Like some lame bulb
That never blooms come any spring
Not any spring
No, not any spring
Not any spring
The Courage of Shutting Up
The courage of the shut mouth, in spite of artillery!
The line pink and quiet, a worm, basking.
There are black discs behind it, the discs of outrage,
And the outrage of the sky, the lined brain of it.
The discs revolve, they ask to be heard –
Loaded, as they are, with accounts of bastardies.
Bastardies, usages, desertions and doubleness,
The needle journeying in its groove,
Silver beast between two dark canyons,
A great surgeon, now a tattooist,
Tattooing over and over the same blue grievances,
The snakes, the babies, the tits
On mermaids and two-legged dreamgirls.
The surgeon is quiet, he does not speak.
He has seen too much death, his hands are full of it.
So the discs of the brain revolve, like the muzzles of cannon.
Then there is that antique billhook, the tongue,
Indefatigable, purple. Must it be cut out?
It has nine tails, it is dangerous.
And the noise it flays from the air, once it gets going!
No, the tongue, too, has been put by,
Hung up in the library with the engravings of Rangoon
And the fox heads, the otter heads, the heads of dead rabbits.
It is a marvellous object –
The things it has pierced in its time.
But how about the eyes, the eyes, the eyes?
Mirrors can kill and talk, they are terrible rooms
In which a torture goes on one can only watch.
The face that lived in this mirror is the face of a dead man.
Do not worry about the eyes –
They may be white and shy, they are no stool pigeons,
Their death rays folded like flags
Of a country no longer heard of,
An obstinate independency
Insolvent among the mountains.
(This is what I want to tack on the end to close from Plath's The Bee Meeting)
I am exhausted, I am exhausted ----
Pillar of white in a blackout of knives.
I am the magician's girl who does not flinch.
The villagers are untying their disguises, they are shaking hands.
Whose is that long white box in the grove, what have they accomplished, why am I cold.