“Marilyn Monroe” by Alex Clifford

Alex Clifford (age 14)


She was origami—flesh like onion skin—
creases etched deep then deeper, bones
became paper, marrow like cellophane, folded
smaller, smaller until she hid from herself.

Creases deeper now, tighter, breathe,
she was claustrophobic buried beneath
bottles of Redisol, until she hid from herself.
Then dissolved like snow on hot asphalt.

She was claustrophobic, pressed between
celluloid and drawn with lipstick, until
she dissolved like snow sinking farther and
farther into the filtered black and white photos.

She was shaped between fingers beautifully
sculpted until she was the consistency of smoke,
lighter than air, until she fell farther and farther until
her ghost of Nembutal and champagne lay

beautifully sculpted on the floor. Wilted like
wisteria on the hardwood, blond hair fanned
around her head. Nembutal and champagne like a ghost
on her nightstand, illuminated by lamp light.

It’s lighter there. Lying on the hardwood floor, she
became paper, marrow like cellophane
her skin illuminated by lamp light. Crumpled
beneath the weight of her own palms

She was origami.

from 2017 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Alex Clifford: “In 4th grade, I picked up a Shel Silverstein book from the school library and spontaneously decided that I loved language. The concept that rhythm and sound could morph even the terrible shriek of rubber on linoleum to something beautiful was so astounding that I spent the next two weeks reading poetry in the library during lunch. I consumed Gary Soto, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Robert Frost, instead of my ham sandwich.”

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