“Three Photos of Jayne Mansfield” by John Wall Barger

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John Wall Barger

THREE PHOTOS OF JAYNE MANSFIELD

The first: Mansfield laid out beside the car wreck,
top part of her head missing. A journalist found her blonde wig
at the scene, thought she’d been decapitated. At 2:25 a.m.,
they hit a curve in the road, when an insecticide truck
came the other way in a fog of chemicals. The impact
sheared off the top of the 1966 Buick Electra.
(Four Chihuahuas in there: just one died.) The second: Mansfield,
beside Sophia Loren at a fancy Hollywood dinner, allows
her breasts to cascade out of her silky dress. Loren is aghast.
Nobody looks very happy in either pic.
The two men beside Loren at the dinner are having
an awful night. Mansfield, however beautiful, is a car wreck.
At the accident, death has brought beauty & perfection.
A friend told me the other day that civilization
is an elaborate design to cover up shit.
I thought of Jayne Mansfield, how the end reveals
what we’ve known all along. The wig of life is removed
& we see the beast unveiled. We are jealous, having suspected
their ugliness. So when something beautiful ends
we are not surprised or disappointed. Quite the opposite.
We hold the bloody blonde wig in our hands.
We even try it on, & look in the mirror. We preen,
all of us, divas for a moment. This is the third picture:
the same, exactly, as the other two.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011
Tribute to Canadian Poets



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One thought on ““Three Photos of Jayne Mansfield” by John Wall Barger

  1. I read a lot of poems that leave me thinking better of whatever we mean by words like ‘art’ and ‘poetry’. But few dive into who we are with as much tenderness and respect for the subject.

    A terrific effort, on so many levels.

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