Olivia Gatwood “An Ode to Norma Jeane”

An Ode to Norma Jeane
by Olivia Gatwood

I was always told she was a hallowed beauty
wrapped in a white dress
red lipstick stains on her extra long cigarette
lace panties hugging her coke bottle waist like the children
who never called her mother.

These simplistic posters were plastered on best friends’ walls
something pretty to look at before they went to sleep
to dream of romantic evenings in smoky clubs
smiling at slick haired men dressed
in sly smiles and pork pie hats,

These photos of Marilyn Monroe made them feel
like they had someone to look up to-
finally
an icon who looked more appealing
than the people in their textbooks,
as she lay naked on Hugh Hefner’s dirty sheets
dyed blonde hair
powdered cheeks
that alliteration of a name that looked so good
imprinted on business men’s pleats.

It’s so easy to agree with the idea of such a woman
but why do we waste our idealistic adjectives
and raving tongues,
as names like Bella Abzug
and Billy Jean King slip through our palms-
ignoring the stories of women
who never stripped for success,
whose faces aren’t printed on the clothing in middle school hallways
whose wearers believe that the person they idolize
will boost their amateur sex appeal,
Revolutions are not made between supple breasts.

They grow in the voices of women
who test the limits of their allowances
instead of allowing society to
limit them of their voice
Women whose rough skin
and crooked smiles were still photographed
because their actions deserved to be recorded
regardless of their hunched poise-
beautiful for their working hands
their raised fists,

while Marilyn drowns in photos of herself
society rejects her wrong doings
and rewrites the story of a country bumpkin
who took Rosie’s seat.
A woman who made the men hard
the women harder,
and when she left,
we held onto her outlived name like
parched dogs licking our empty water bowls.

A person’s life can never be copyrighted
as soon as that tombstone acts as their headboard
we rewrite the truth to create idols for our children
convince ourselves she made us stronger
and name her a revolutionary-
that she lived a broken life
and name her innocent,
that she scratched sweet nothings onto paper
and name her a poet,
forget the name her mother gave her.

Norma Jeane Baker,
you are NOT forgotten for your offenses
we look back to the fifties and beam
at these sugary pin-ups
yet we stare at women on today’s Playboys
and label them trash-
but if they swallowed their lives
maybe we’d label them heroes
and shun the men
who call to them like meat.

Who are these hallowed beauties
of whom we so fondly speak?
Every man’s dream but their own worst nightmare
disregarding the pop portrait she was so pleased to pose for
The flash of the camera did not break her
She broke herself.

And while we bow down to this face of naked photos
they dream to be hallowed beauties-
something pretty to look at
before they go to sleep.

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