HERE LIES NORMA JEAN BAKER
Jo Neace Krause
The foliage spreads like a pasture holding
the marble crypt
The Persian lilac and Dallas ferns between two snow white angel wings
stand silent in the jasmine chill of pinks and tangerines, a
breathless air in which I can’t help seeing you
forever holding down your famous
skirt flapping like sails.
Something Southern About Her
Oh, body for body, dancer and foot
dream life goes seeking with banjo and lute
goes rowdy round with lofty sounds
That heap and coil and flirt
About the silky curtain of her skirt
In multitudinous curls and cries
upon the moonbeams of her thighs
The Way She Fell In Love With Death
Truth is I never was comfortable with you
or your pretense that it was all in fun
I never thought you were beautiful either, if you want to know,
insipid colorless hue
that needed iron pills or blood to suck.
We agree at least on your lack of talent, so how did you do it?
Where came the nerve of those sugar crawling songs, your lit up donut
that charming trick you did, that laugh-and-lean-out
into the stretching gulf
between all men—
as if you were the light that kissed
their lives had missed.
And Took Us On—As Any Icon Will
Oh, careful mover, sweet night user
under this great anaconda coil
Under this blue deep starlite sweep
where death and time are laid to sleep
let us work our way.
Lie here in calm weather
with your hair like rain on heather
I remember in a downtown hotel once, in a low smoky sullen
way, like an after thought, hearing your voice make a joke.
Then laughter jumping in some famous throat. I stared at the radio.
Tying my tie. I was thin then and young beyond belief.
Yet Reminded Me Of Sunday School Somehow
We ordinary people read the news that day
We opened our newspapers at the lunch counter and talked
about the death scene, the photos, the gurney,
the rumpled sheets, the phone off the hook
We talked at the lunch counter holding open the pages
and the earth floated away as suspicion
spread like winter coming down out of the mountains
Making a lot of people complain . . .
These goddess traps! These icon makers!
Thinking they were alone. Touching their sweaty gizzards
Still I never liked what she did. Married men running after her. Still
I never liked it.
Here Lies Norma Jean, Wife Of . . .
Oh, bride of once upon a time,
is it the downside after all that draws us here?
Knowing you stayed for days in your rumpled room
a mountain of rosy flesh with the shades pulled down
you who rang the magic bell of dreams
with the money talking on the phone
whispering you were easy and madness-prone
If so, then let myth make bearable what we desire
let the singing ages hold you sweetly in its rock
the one our hands reach out to touch for luck
As with the banjo and the flute
As in the strings of Shakespeare’s lute
where lies the darkness love defends
in the fingertips where the world begins.
GARDEN NEWS FROM HOME
In our family someone is always
banging his head against the wall
shouting for help,
screaming about traitors,
hogging and fighting the bed covers,
kicking and groaning.
Nevertheless, once awake we get a lot done.
Very busy family, resetting dials. Listening to the news,
our faces baffled, unbelieving yet know what is coming.
Know the feet on the ladder climbing in the morning sun
where the big barn pokes the sky above the town
Your eyes chill over as the tools are sharpened
feel you listening. Your face ugly laying its plans,
scheming, whispering, while someone far down below
is peacefully falling off a park bench
and dying like a fly in a jar.
Makes us think then of flies.
Which leads us to spiders
and the drama of existence: its hate, its hunger, its conflicts
and death traps.
Even as the door opens on the moon.
Only a relative showing up.
Who else but
the dangerous suffering smiling kind,
trying to prove God exists
until you just go mad
Bringing a dead bat in a napkin for you to examine
Its little teeth, its little red tongue, its neat little white backbone
in its sheer black cape, a radar so exquisite it can find jazz
in a Sear’s catalog for you . . . oh how can you look at a bat
and not see God?
We entertain on colorless damp days like these
we find papers to show you, all kinds—hidden treasure
that test your passions
brought forth to the couch: pictures, videos, diaries, so old
and yellow and worn. One stained entry . . . your mother’s.
No doubt about it (that beautiful elegant coiling slant) nine
“Had sex last night with X. Almost like getting
Past decades torn from magazines, show them all to you,
plastered to the attic ceiling
for you to look up and see—you will stay the night?
See 1933 on the wall. Watch it dance and drink and kick
feel its fatal laughter wild and thick
as we yawn on our backs
staring at the hanged dictators. So long long ago
dangling before us like a Soutine chicken or a Soutine grin
where they twist and turn like strippers just for fun
knowing in times like those like times like these
a thousand rolling bloody heads are even better than one
how messy men are compared to spiders when they kill.
But just as patient too, you must admit.
As on and on we go, turning in our beds, rising,
working, sweating, garbage picking, my family.
Exploring the dumpsters. A vile scramble for a little wealth
among the bones and filth,
We find what we need, sell it
back to the people who threw it away.
We sing as we work, glance at each other with deep affection.
Piling up the dirt, fixing it all pretty, pretty, hearing finally
some good garden news:
You piss on a bush it dies
Jo Neace Krause often
publishes in literary journals such as The Yale Review, The University
of Windsor Review, The South Carolina Review, The Richmond Review
(UK), Witness, Exquisite Corpse, Web Del Sol, Other Voices, Potomac
Review, and River City. Her paintings hang in Morehead
State University’s Kentucky Folk Art Center. A group of her paintings
can be seen at Story