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Playing with fire. That, or deep water-

playing with fire. That, or deep water

Sharing an Adcock poem I seem to associate with someone I love-This poem reflects a state of a mind we all suffer from, at one point of our lives ricocheting between the two polarities-"playing with fire. That, or deep water."

We all wish to play with fire yet we cant. The poem seems to communicate the same idea of purgatory-how a soul, an existence hangs between the two worlds, two realms-that of fire and water-both possessing the magnanimity to consume him completely-fire being representative of his true fiery nature, identity, madness that the pragmatic world of social order (i.e. of water) is designed to extinguish and drown within.

They can not co-exist. Thus, the pain of this dilemma keeps stinging those who cannot submit to either of them completely. Neither to the "flames" for the sake of reason and social acceptance and nor to the "water" since one cannot deceive one's own self either. Hence, this wait for either side to conquer breaks, shatters, "scorch and wither "many thing within. Once the war is raged the losses are infinite. Thus the only escape and protection one can look forward to, as Foucault puts it," is absolute madness" . Since absolute madness provides the prospects of absolute freedom it liberates you from all the ties of religion, time, sense and more importantly- the brutal society.


"Which redhead did I get my temper from?
I've made a short ancestral list
by hair-colour and moods. But, more to the point,
what are the odds on Alzheimer's?

Which ones went funny in their 70's?
Marry Ellen, perhaps, found in the coal-shed
hunting for her Ship Canal shares
after her fiery hair turned grey.

My hair's not red. I like flames, though.
When I get old and mad I'll play with them -
run the flimsy veils through my fingers
like orange plastic film, like parachute-silk.

My hands will scorch and wither, if i do.
I shall be safe and dead.It wont matter.
Its something to look forward to,
playing with fire. That, or deep water."

-Fleur Adcock

Adcock reflects the same masochistic yearning to be lead to Alzheimer's, forgetting the possibilities of pain, deceit and confinement. Only the last stanza rhymes showing how the speaker's only consolation lies in absolute submission to either, or, in absolute madness if all fails.

Further Reading: The theme of the above discussed poem is very similar to that of the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

You can find the complete text on:


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