Thursday, 14 February 2008

The dead good

Hmmm, interesting theme. So what do I have to say about it? I suppose writers are all going to come to this from their own interests and obsessions- which is what makes it so nteresting. But when I think death ,I think legend, and how people make sense and construct the departed with all their own seperate pieces. I think of Edgar Allan Poe

' There is nothing so poetic as the death of a beautiful woman'.

As a woman this pisses me off a bit, and yet it also rings true of society. There is a weird fetishisation of the dead when it comes to women- the women of paintings, film, and tabloid- which disturbs, and yet continues to fascinate. Don't all of us Know Marilyn died in the nude? Of course, we can't only blame Elton John.

How many paintings of Ophelia before the lake have we seen? Whether fictional or real the death of a beautiful woman intrigues, worries, presents is cautionary tale in picture book form; whether we want to or not we continue turning the page.

Here are a couple of my poems about the death of Marilyn from different points of view.

I'm also working on some monologues- but haven't finished them yet.

The Embalmer’s Wife

Truth is, I haven’t thought of her in years.
Remember his care reducing the swelling,
and after asking me to lend an eye.

Of course the movie make-up still had to be applied.
The partners nodded, said he’d done good;
it was only me who mentioned her chest.

Rather, the lack of it,
something the procedures took away.

I woke with the birds, snuck down
to cradle what should’ve been in my hand.

The enhancers just didn’t seem right.
I searched the house to find my children’s first socks,
a baby’s stuffed rabbit, powder puff,
small things, to stuff in
till she looked herself again.

These things that had been everywhere,
road trips, the coast, picnic, a wedding night,
seemed to make her complete.
As if I had taken her missing chest with me
to show it everything I thought it should see,
got to know it as it said goodbye.

The Undertaker’s Wife

The library book on de-cluttering
says everything you don’t use must go.
The house keeps its hands in its pockets,
I sneak up to find things I’ve never seen before.

An orgy of birthday cards, Christmases,
those lines of crosses in different colours.
Firing lines of kisses, I’m not sure if I claimed,
neat as sutures on the back of her neck.

An old white sheet her body somehow used
to create alps covered in snow.

In his bottom desk drawer, a lifetime later,
a small piece of brown paper,
the tag that looped round her big toe.


Each day a little less left. She waters down her eyes

and turns up her smile so loud it’s white noise.

All that’s left is waterfall.



roars applause

as all eyes follow the perpetual

motion of her hips.

Her mouth moves on and on, as if cut

from a movie he hasn’t seen and spliced in.



conspires, won’t let her forget.

Her laugh like busy hands, exaggerated

for a dull husband in the wings.

A man with one word on his face

shakes the sense into her; his slap

like a tuning fork that makes her face sing.



just falls.

Her look that could kill as he sleeps, keeps on

breathing, breathes in deep, as if it was love.

Waterfall in her ears

as she goes back to the house, something left behind,

searches room by room, like he moved into her

taking anything of value, closing doors,

turning out the lights.


That year they didn’t sing anything
when the wife brought in the cake.

My son blew out the candles,
wax dinting the icing like snow prints,
when we asked the boy to make a wish.

The cards flapped when the door opened
or shut, seemed to sigh their greeting in my ear.

My daughter’s doll was naked on the birdbath.
The birds came and went
until night crept in.

The way those last days
she swapped her sentences for Hallmark verse,
Made her body stone by stone into sculpture,
sparkling rhinestones like the fossils of rain.

The Cellar

Old Joe never to spoke to Harry again
after he opened the cellar door.

His boots shuffled out
the pads of her toes,
her footsteps
no one knew were a tip toe in heels.
Rain prick of stiletto’s
like buried children’s toys in sand
on the dust on his floor.

Twenty years since a decent bottle of wine.
The white gloves where she left them,
folded one on top of the other in repose,
etched grey by years, waiting for a posy.

A light hand on his arm for that second


steffi_h said...

hi angela, i thought you might be interested in OVER HER DEAD BODY by elisabeth bronfen in case you don't already know it. it's been published about 15 years ago but it's still -as far as i know- the most complexe and detailed analysis on the dead female as a common cultural image in western society.

angela said...

thanks steffi-
you are very wise

it is a great book i have it on muy shelf! :)

Ross Sutherland said...

I really like all of these, Angela- they work really well as a series, I'd be loathe to cut them up.

I'd suggest that we use film again. Niagra would be incredibly powerful if we could see MM at the same time. I'd be tempted to put that one to the end, so the audience only slowly realises the identity of the deceased.

How do you feel about doing film? It would be a new filmmaker this time. probably something even more simple than last time.

also- did dawn send you all the recordings she made from last time?