by Michael Woods
A person contemplates committing suicide and reflects upon the possible effects of this act.
The persona in this poem is another disturbed one. Unlike 'Havisham' the urge to kill is directed against the self. However, there is a similarity in that the intended effect of the act is to cause suffering in others: 'This will kill my folks'. The gender of the persona is not especially clear. What is there to suggest that this person is either male or female? What leads you to this conclusion? What might have led this person to suicide?
Suicide is sometimes regarded as the most selfish of crimes because of the effect it has on those left behind to come to terms with it, and is certainly not the 'Utterly selfless' act claimed for it in line 21. Certainly there is a good deal to suggest that the person presented in the poem is self-obsessed. He or she wants to be 'Famous' (line 13). The command to 'Worship' (line 25) reinforces this view. The mental preparation for the suicide includes choosing a 'shroud' to wear as well a curious sense of elation, 'Despair / laced with a little glee'. What does the word 'laced' suggest? There is also a desire for absolute control: 'My body is a blank page I will write on.' (line 12) This metaphor also suggests that the only evidence following the death will be physical with no written suicide note being left. The almost taunting 'Who wants / a bloody valentine pumping its love hate love?' What do you notice about the rhythm of this? The total exposure of the self is expressed in the somewhat erotic, 'I lie back under the lightbulb'.
Duffy's use of the simile, 'Something like a cat claws from my head, spiteful.' is an animal image conveying the unstable mental state of somebody whose motive is as much vindictive as it is self-destructive.