When We Were Young
Norma Jean and I had the same last name
which we both changed because she longed
to be a star and I longed to be a saint.
While the steam from a subway grate
billowed her vanilla skirt up to heaven,
I shrouded myself in opaline linen
and the stiff veil of the novice.
As she exploded on the big screen,
I scratched the Rule like a hair shirt
til my face soured white like a millstone.
I shriveled into a scrupulous bag of bones,
so the folds of my habit would fall
with the grace of a dancer, not the grace of God.
As I chanted Ego ad Altare Dei, she oozed
Diamond’s Are A Girl’s Best Friend
in a cerise sheath, stripped off elbow length gloves.
As I inhaled the host she was devoured.
by the camera’s web. I thought I was letting go
but I was holding onto a life a yard wide and all wool.
But Marilyn couldn’t hold on while her therapist
paraded her on a Freudian red carpet,
not to a cloister of peace but back to a maze
where her schizoid mother split in half like a ripe,
summer melon. Sleepless she swallowed pills
while I awakened, staggered backwards to my old self,
to the twenty-year-old I was called to be
who burgeoned like cherries on a bough,
who grew her hair til it brushed her waist
and pencilled the arches of her eyebrows.
Liz Dolan’s second poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, which is seeking a publisher, was nominated for the Robert McGovern Prize.Her first poetry collection, They Abide, was published by March Street Press. A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of The Best of the Web, she has also won an established artist fellowship in poetry and two honorable mentions in prose from the Delaware Division of the Arts.She recently won The Nassau Prize for prose. Liz serves on the poetry board of Philadelphia Stories.Her nine grandkids live one block away from her. They pepper her life.