The True Story of Eleanor Marx in Ten Parts


Eleanor of the eight-hour day
Gets betrayed by Edward of the two faces.
She orders: chloroform, with just some traces
Of prussic acid – blue – a beautiful imitation.


She says it’s for the dog but she is the dog.


The Housekeeper finds her dressed in white.
It’s not her bridal dress, she’s not a bride.
It’s from her childhood. She lies as if asleep.
She has strangely purple cheeks.


In her ‘white muslin dress’ she is laid out.


The Coroner is exasperated with feeble Edward.
CORONER Was the deceased your wife?
EDWARD Legally?
CORONER Were you married to the deceased?
EDWARD Not legally.
CORONER What was her age?

(She was forty-three.)


On Tuesday:
Fire –
But the Phoenix,
God of Suicide,
Doesn’t rise.
And Edward doesn’t claim her
Because now he has a real wife.


So the urn that holds the ashes of the soft summer dress,
And of the woman who knew the power of the proletariat,
And of the chunk of poisoned apple that she bit under duress,
Are taken to the offices of the SDF.


The offices are in Maiden Lane.


And in the offices in Maiden Lane,
There is a cupboard with two glass panes.
And there they place her to remain
For years and years.
Her tears are dew
And she crushes nothing.


Nearly all of this is true.

From The Tragic Death of Eleanor Marx. Reproduced with kind permission of Carcanet

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