Jun. 1, 2002

Death of Marilyn Monroe

by Sharon Olds

(RealAudio) | How to listen

: "Death of Marilyn Monroe," by Sharon Olds from The Dead and the Living (Alfred A. Knopf).

Death of Marilyn Monroe

The ambulance men touched her cold
body, lifted it, heavy as iron,
onto the stretcher, tried to close
the mouth, closed the eyes, tied the
arms to the side, moved a caught
strand of hair, as if it mattered,
saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by
gravity, under the sheet,
carried her, as if it were she,
down the steps.

These men were never the same. They went out
afterwards, as they always did,
for a drink or two, but they could not meet
each other's eyes.

Their lives took
a turn-one had nightmares, strange
pains, impotence, depression. One did not
like his work, his wife looked
different, his kids. Even death
seemed different to him-a place where she
would be waiting,

and one found himself standing at night
in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a
woman breathing, just an ordinary

On this day in 1967, the Beatles released their concept album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," which they had originally planned to call "Dr. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" until they remembered about the soft drink.

It's the birthday of Colleen McCullough, born in Wellington, New South Wales, Australia in 1938. She worked as a teacher, a librarian, and a bus driver before she published her first novel in 1974, Tim. She said before she sat down to write, she did a little market research. "I sat down with six girls who were working with me. They were very dissimilar types, and not especially avid readers. Yet, they were all mad about Erich Segal's Love Story. They enjoyed books that made them cry. If you didn't cry the book wasn't worth reading. So, I said, 'That's it, mate. No matter what else you do in a book, don't forget the buckets of tears.'" Her big bestseller came out in 1977. It was The Thorn Birds.

It's the birthday of actress Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jean Mortenson in Los Angeles in 1926. Her mother was committed to a state mental hospital, and young Norma Jean spent several years in foster homes and in an orphanage. She married young; she was only sixteen when she married an airplane factory worker. She got a job assembling airplanes at a plant in Van Nuys, and was spotted by an army photographer who chose her to model for an article. A modeling agency saw the photograph and she signed with 20th Century Fox in 1946, and started using name Marilyn Monroe. To make money, she posed nude for a calendar photograph. When asked later if it was true that she had nothing on in the photograph, she said, "I had the radio on." When asked what she wanted to do with her life, she said, "Oh, I just want to be wonderful."

It's the birthday of the poet John Masefield, born in Ledbury in Herefordshire, England, in 1878. He went to sea as a teenager, and arrived in New York on a ship of the White Star line and decided to stay in America for awhile. He spent about three years in New York, working in a bakery, a saloon, and finally in a carpet factory in Yonkers, where he began to read poetry and write. John Masefield was the Poet Laureate of Great Britain from 1930 to 1967, and is best known for his poem, "Sea Fever," which begins: "I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,/And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by."

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