Celebrity

Marilyn Monroe rules the world, at least
The part visible in a photograph, standing
Above the troops she’s about to bless
With a song in her porous sequin dress, her arms
Durably outstretched. She hasn’t aged a day
In fifty years. The men too appear impossibly
Young, mooning boys clotted around a woman
Who just might show them something they’ve never seen.
Picture the millions who’ve looked at this picture
As a relic, an idol’s sacred likeness.
Now imagine the few who bring her close, make out
In the crowd, a brother, a son, that it’s he
Who quickens hearts, dampens palms, doesn’t belong
With the others, but to those hopelessly apart
From the object of their affection, though holding on
Tight with their eyes. Incongruous, he has nothing
To do with movies, just right place, right time,
Korea during the war, at the front
Of countless gawkers when the bombshell walks out.
There’s your famous father, someone’s mother jokes
And everyone smiles, knowing how hard it’s been.
He’s in his prime and at his peak before
Coming home to the farm in Glen Mills
In a bag or minus a leg or unscathed
As far as anyone can see. Go ahead, ad-lib,
It’s all fantasy, how he stepped off a plane
And got recognized instantly, besieged by people
Who made up with the intensity of their obsession
What they lacked in numbers, open mouthed,
Daring to think, it’s him, it’s really him.

                                                          —David Moolten

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47 comments
  1. This is powerful and beautiful all at the same time.

  2. Cynthia Short said:

    I am so in awe of your imagination, David! Such a wonderful story told so well. I particularly like the line, “unscathed as far as anyone can tell”. We all know someone who came home from war that way….

    • Thanks Cynthia, that’s very generous. Yes, the wound of war on the psyche is something that doesn’t get enough attention.

  3. poetryaboutart said:

    I admire how this poem unflinchingly regards the most raw and basic drives of humanity — death (war) and sex (Marilyn) and cultural rituals (enactments) to appease both death and sex. The contrast between the female celebrity goddess and the famous-by-association male soldier is compelling. Moreover, although the poem doesn’t say it outright, it alludes to the fact that Marilyn is herself a casualty of her own wars. In the wars between man and woman, or between man and man, no one is unscathed. I’m in awe of how complex your poems are, David.

    • Hi Therese,

      Your insights are astute as always. While I was leery of having MM become the focus of negative attention, since she was as much a victim of our culture as the soldiers, I wanted to nevertheless use her as the embodiment of the false though beautiful ideal for which so many wars are fought, and for which so many are willing to die.

  4. Derrick said:

    Hi David,

    What better way to use the word ‘porous’?! You have created another reality from a old photograph. Cynthia has picked the same line that I would choose.

    • Hi Derrick,

      Thanks so much. Porous seemed like the best word out of the prompt words for the situation. The naivete of the fifties is pretty remarkable.

  5. Mark said:

    Great poetic storytelling. Clear, concise and a touch of the dreamy.

    I really enjoyed this.

    • Hi Mark, thank you, that was the balance I was looking for realistic, but dream-like in terms of what the tone suggests.

  6. I like this very much — especially “Go ahead, ad-lib, / It’s all fantasy…”

  7. another photograph. with some wonderful images built around it. I was taken with …Young, mooning boys clotted around a woman… among all the others.
    You do some interesting things here with perspective, point of view. The line Rachel mentions jolts the reader into being part of the action at the same time it brings back the frame.

    • Hi Barbara,

      Thank you. Yes, I was trying to use the narrator’s voice and the imperative to keep the reader reminded of the separation between him/her and that referred to in the picture, since that separation is real, and more than just time.

  8. Very visual and a wonderful narrative.

    A good response to the prompt. I think the words in a Wordle prompt are kind of like a box of tools…some you need, some you don’t. Porous was a very appropriate way to describe her clothes.

    I think my favourite line in this was: “Young, mooning boys clotted around a woman”.

    And I liked how you contrasted reality with fantasy in this. The reality of war versus the fantasy of being famous, being the celebrity. We all look for escape.

    As always, enjoyed the read.

    -Nicole

    • Hi NIcole,

      Thanks for you insightful take on this. I agree with you about the prompt; for me using all the words is too much of a challenge, overpowers anything I could imagine. One or two words on the other hand can get things started.

  9. Shayla said:

    I don’t have anything clever or insightful to say about it, but I agree with what other people have already said and I just really like this poem.

    • Hi Shayla,

      Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

  10. joannejohns said:

    Awesome use of ‘porous’ and all-round awesome poem.

  11. The prompt is barely recognizeable, and seeing as you read my poem you know how problematic I made it be. Your poem, on the other hand, shows dignity, grace and creating from what shows up without judging or the wringing of hands.

    Kudos beyond words.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you so much for your kind remarks, though I think you did fine with your poem. I find that using all or most of the prompt words is something I simply am not capable of, so I pick one or two. It’s not fair to compare.

  12. viciousorvirtuous said:

    Stunning!

  13. Irene said:

    David, I like how you layer complexity in your poem marrying different images.

  14. I love how the poem turns the focus from Marilyn to the soldiers, granting them a bit of that fleeting celebrity. It rings very true.

    • Hi Francis,

      Thank you. I was inspired by Veteran’s Day, though it took a while for the poem to shake its way out.

  15. Liz said:

    I also like how you turn your gaze to the soldiers and consider accidental celebrity and the consequences of way. Porous sequin dress is a marvelous image.

  16. Marian said:

    What begins as a paean to a movie icon becomes a celebration of the real icons in our lives. Loved it!

    • Hi Marian,

      Thank you. I’ve always wondered about the contrast between what we consider precious (diamonds, gold, movie stars), and what truly is precious (water, food, air, loved ones).

  17. I like mooning boys clotted around a woman with quickening hearts and damp palms..Your poem has a desperation about it…the futility of war
    coupled with the futility of males all fired up over a bombshell holding on tight with their eyes. This poem is a call for menopausal women to lead the world! Glad you’re joining the cause David.

    • Rall,

      Thanks for the kind comments. For me there is a gravitation towards shallow icons, or a shallowness of perception, perhaps more accurately, when it comes to icons, be they human ones or ideals.

  18. Linda said:

    The iconic sources which inspire some of your poems grow richer in my memory because you do what you do so brilliantly, David. In this instance, the words of the poem are so true. Families would save the picture of the icon because “Uncle Joe” was right beside the icon in the picture. And because people do this, it gives validity to the icon as well as the memory of “Uncle Joe”. It’s all romanticized together. The phrases in your poem are romantic too,”holding on tight with their eyes” and “opened mouth”. The farm community of “Glen Mills” put Glenn Miller in my head, associating back to the time and place of the poem. Yes, he was gone then, but his music was still really popular through out the 50’s. Brilliant.

    • Hi Linda

      Thank you for your very detailed comments. I wonder if I was subconsciously thinking of Glen Miller too (I’m familiar with his story, and like his music) when I picked Glen Mills as the town, a community not far from here in Philadelphia, with its share of contributions over the years to our country’s wars.

  19. zouxzoux said:

    Nostalgia with a tint of melancholy beautifully illustrated with your gift for words.

  20. wayne said:

    any writing starting with MM has to be great….nicely done David

  21. Jeeves said:

    Powerful, very powerful and thought provoking

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