All the Dead Dears

by Sylvia Plath

In the Arch├Žological Museum in Cambridge is a stone coffin of the fourth century A.D. containing the skeletons of a woman, a mouse and a shrew. The ankle-bone of the woman has been slightly gnawed. Rigged poker -stiff on her back With a granite grin This antique museum-cased lady Lies, companioned by the gimcrack Relics of a mouse and a shrew That battened for a day on her ankle-bone. These three, unmasked now, bear Dry witness To the gross eating game We'd wink at if we didn't hear Stars grinding, crumb by crumb, Our own grist down to its bony face. How they grip us through think and thick, These barnacle dead! This lady here's no kin Of mine, yet kin she is: she'll suck Blood and whistle my narrow clean To prove it. As I think now of her hand, From the mercury-backed glass Mother, grandmother, greatgrandmother Reach hag hands to haul me in, And an image looms under the fishpond surface Where the daft father went down With orange duck-feet winnowing this hair --- All the long gone darlings: They Get back, though, soon, Soon: be it by wakes, weddings, Childbirths or a family barbecue: Any touch, taste, tang's Fit for those outlaws to ride home on, And to sanctuary: usurping the armchair Between tick And tack of the clock, until we go, Each skulled-and-crossboned Gulliver Riddled with ghosts, to lie Deadlocked with them, taking roots as cradles rock.