Marilyn Monroe Imagines Her Life as Menu Items at Schrafft’s
I was an abandoned passenger, my father
a train departed before I was born. My mother’s
mind softened like aspic unmolded on a warm plate.
She took to wearing a nurse’s white uniform,
believing she had power to cure illness.
In Rockhaven Sanitarium, mother said, “Radio waves
are destroying my brain.”
From the orphanage window
the RKO Studio sign—tower atop globe—
beamed bright waves on me.
Chopped Egg Sandwich
American sex goddess, innocent
as white bread with trimmed crusts.
That was who I agreed to be. My eyes
stayed Norma Jean blue,
but the rest of me? My hair was a scraggly field.
It was straightened, bleached, dyed,
shaped, trimmed, permed. Makeup
camouflaged the bump on my nose.
My dumpling chin was sculpted,
and I was renamed.
My gum line was too high. To conceal
its indecent pink
I was coached to lower
my upper lip when smiling. I practiced
before the mirror, my lip quivering
like a child eating chowder with a fork.
Truman Capote and I drank
White Angels—half gin, half vodka.
Truman kept his hands
around the drink.
I was his beautiful child.
When we danced he held
my wrist so I wouldn’t get lost.
If I were Snow White, then he was Gossip,
my witty dwarf.
In my favorite poem of his, Mr. Yeats cautioned,
never give all the heart. I laid down a crust
over what was bruised and blighted.
Drawn by the scent of sweet cinnamon,
men ordered me: dessert à la mode.
None of them the father.
Moth from the moon pinned to the past—
attempting escape, I tore myself apart.
Marilyn Monroe Sits for Andy Warhol in the Afterlife
Andy stands behind the easel, toothpaste-white
tennis shoes visible. He wants to paint me
as an act of forgiveness
for selling my lips like carnival booth prizes
and shelving my image
like a can of tomato soup.
But the paper bags of his lungs
collapse with sobs. I lead him to the blue chair
of happiness where I sat. He imagines
he can re-film the scene where he hid under the bed
and refused to go to his father’s wake. Instead, I comb
his baby-bird hair with my fingers the way a mother does.
Opening his shirt, he asks me to bless
the bullet wound and scars on his chest
that resemble, he says,
a Byzantine cross.
Instead, I take the brush from the easel
its sable hairs to his forehead, nose, eyelids, ears.
We are here, I tell him, to learn to be ourselves.
It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Above the blue chair
a thumbtacked notice
with curled corners:
Chair Can Collapse Without Warning.
I dip the brush in crimson paint, stroke color
like antiseptic on Andy’s chest. With Venetian gold,
Andy paints the suspension bridge
of my clavicle, up the throat’s ladder
onto the cliff of my chin.
For now, we are the calm
and chaos of sunrise and sunset,
the shimmer of amber,
the roar from the lion’s mouth.
Susan J. Erickson admits to “poetic multiple-personality syndrome” having assumed the persona of a host of women while completing a manuscript of poems in women’s voices. Poems from that series appear in 2River View, Crab Creek Review, Museum of Americana, The Fourth River, Naugatuck River Review and Literal Latte, as well as in anthologies such as Till The Tide: An Anthology of Mermaid Poetry. Selected by Oliver de la Paz.
Image © Suzanne LaGasa via Flickr Creative Commons.