Gail Wronsky is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, most recently Blue Shadow Behind Everything Dazzling (Poems from India), and Bling & Fringe (The LA Poems), coauthored with Molly Bendall. Her essay "In Sickness" will appear this month in The Black Body, an anthology of essays edited by Meri Nana-Ama Danquah. She is Director of Creative Writing and Syntext (Synthesizing Textualities) at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Splendor in the Grass (1961/1990)
A photograph by Cindy Bernard
Great art and great women share
a flair for betrayal—a mocking
insouciance that eludes everyone’s
grasping. Hence Natalie Wood
is not in this picture—although
her ghost is. Herodotus had it
even Helen was an absence—an identical
phantom copy of herself
sent with Paris to Troy while Proteus
kept the fleshy real girl all to himself
in Memphis. Imagine it—war raging
for ten years—men like Achilles
dying over a woman who wasn’t
even present. But what does it matter?
Time turns everything to euphemism
anyway, which, according to Plato,
is what everything already always was:
copies of copies. What’s left in
Pompeii? Trite images of love. Really.
In Greek the word for seduce
is also the word for destroy. Thus the real
Natalie Wood was gone long before
the tabloids knew it. Replaced with the woman
we see in this photo—the vital
brunette, siren of sexiness and innuendo.
Don’t do it, baby! Don’t
jump! Your ghost-absence leaves a
gaping hole in our aesthetic—
betraying us in plain sight. It’s begging us
to die and love and do battle—
knowing all the while we’re not anything
but shadow and light.
Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1965/1990)
a photograph by Cindy Bernard
Like I said, I’m just really over the go-go dancing.
I can’t be held accountable for the dark magic inside me—
every bone burning to be out there where
the dirt’s about a billion years old and the clouds
are totally see-through, the black hills on the horizon
full of snakes and darkness like the curdled vertebrae of
every freak-loving girl who’s died isolated and luxurious
if a bit dramatically for want of a good stabbing.
Maybe you think that murdering people is a tasteless
appropriation by me of an activity that is properly
reserved for ex-husbands or Baptist biker boys
but strippers, yeah, we’ve been victimized for
far too long by prejudicial images, hissy beerjoint
cliches; I tell you we’re the ultimate tassel-hung subaltern.
That’s why today I’m a black rain of heartbreak with
coffins in my catsuit. I’m looking for some dizzy spinouts, some
grade B black and white fetishization of camp. Will it
lead me to a grandiose-ass iconological insight? I don’t know.
Somebody’s got to be sacrificed. I won’t kid myself into
thinking that this brief flicker of kitsch will pump a
silver bullet into the whole master-slave dialectic. Like I
said, I’m just really over the go-go. It’s not the landscape’s
fault. This kind of thing can happen anywhere.