Address What Matters

You know you want Marilyn’s dress.
Not the one your mother wanted, not
the rhinestone second-skin she sang his song in—
Happy Birthday, Mr. President—not that dress.

You want the simpler but also sleekly tight
little thing she wore here, in this Nevada town,
the dress she wore while drinking shots at this bar
in Dayton. Cocktail cherries, halter back.

You want this dress because she wore it here
but also because everyone who watched her
learned of her secret special talent,
how she could wield a paddleball 100 times

and never miss a strike. Her hips, egg yolks sliding
around a big bowl, kept time, and so did the men
who loved her, or wanted to. No one, not even
Huston nor Miller, knew she could do this,

could create this moment of pure carnal joy.
The movie was The Misfits, and you watch it
every year because it matters, Marilyn matters,
this bar where you and your third husband

spend long summer hours—it all matters.
Everyone has a story here, and some
remember Marilyn, or say they do.
If you had her dress, you could be fearless,

could show everyone who’s ever doubted
that you have skill, you can shudder air.
You would move with a ferocious heat
like the dry desert dust, which is where,
when you’re done here, you’re headed, no matter what.


Copyright © 2017 by Gailmarie Pahmeier. From The Normal School, vol. 10, issue 1, Spring 2017. Used with the permission of the poet.