"The female seer will burn upon this pyre"
Sylvia Plath is setting my hair
by Elizabeth Alexander
on rollers made from orange-juice cans.
The hairdo is shaped like a pyre.
My locks are improbably long.
A pyramid of lemons somehow
balances on the rickety table
where we sit, in the rented kitchen
which smells of singed naps and bergamot.
Sylvia Plath is surprisingly adept
at rolling my unruly hair.
She knows to pull it tight.
Her flat, American belly,
her breasts in a twin sweater set,
stack of typed poems on her desk,
envelopes stamped to go by the door,
a freshly baked poppyseed cake,
kitchen safety matches, black-eyed Susans
in a cobalt jelly jar. She speaks a word,
"immolate," then a single sentence
of prophecy. The hairdo done,
the nursery tidy, the floor swept clean
of burnt hair and bumblebee husks.