Woolf told us any good biography
made her feel she understood that person
as no one ever had. I nodded, since
no one understands her as I do,
and that goes for Emily Dickinson,
Elizabeth I and Marilyn Monroe.
So many of our friends are dead or dying
(they all are dying) that it’s a relief
to have some safely dead before we meet.
Half the people Emily Dickinson loved
were dead before she reached sixteen, Woolf dreamed
of her dead mother every night for decades,
and both Elizabeth and Marilyn,
surrounded by people, were utterly alone.
One writer says that Marilyn’s greatest gift
was making everyone want to take care of her.
Reading, we believe we know their need,
that socket we would fill.
But Frida’s stare
is a bucketful of ice-cold absolution.
You’re not responsible for her happiness.
She isn’t grateful to you for her fame.
Each amiable, idiotic parrot
outlived her, but she loves them more than you.
Even the cigarette. Especially.