I revised this poem at Sage Hill, tightening some of the lines and making the voice more active. Its earlier incarnation can be found on this blog dated September 25th, 2005. It was published in The Windsor Review 38.2 (2005).
Elizabeth Siddal and Marilyn Monroe in Conversation
They sit and chat, stir cream into coffee,
like long-time friends swapping recipes
over the kitchen table.
Since their deaths, they’ve spent
barely a minute apart.
Lizzie, as Marilyn calls her, loves
to curl Marilyn’s hair with an iron.
Wishes such things were invented
in her day. Marilyn teaches Lizzie
the proper way to apply mascara.
They giggle like schoolgirls
into the wee hours. Is that really you?
Marilyn asks, pointing
to a Rossetti reproduction.
It doesn’t even look like you.
In fits of laughter, they roll
about the bed in pajamas and fuzzy slippers.
What about this, Lizzie teases,
holding a Marilyn doll.
I can’t imagine your hips so small.
But their time together is not always frivolous.
They organize study groups and book clubs,
complete with egg salad sandwiches
and jasmine green tea.
They relate to Hardy’s tragic heroines,
bite their lips when reading McCullers.
Tennessee Williams often sparks a debate
over the worst kind of lover.
But Goethe is their favorite.
Young Werther’s death scene
always turns on the water-works,
each offering the other a tissue.
They share stories of unhappy marriages,
lost children and drug addictions.
Lizzie preferred laudanum, Marilyn diazepam.
Revealing the details of their deaths,
they promise never to tell.
Cut the tips of their forefingers,
and gently press them together.