WINONA RYDER / FRIDA KHALO — Mark LaRue
with samplings from Keats (“Endymion”) and Yeats (“No Second Troy”) (Mythologies) and Barthes (Mythologies)
“Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits” gliding in the aisle
toward our seats. Legs of digital light crawl
across my face and find my eyes and spin
them into silk. The scene: I’m standing in
a bus, gripping a pole for balance: Manhattan
or London. Looking up I see an ad
for The Age of Innocence, actors winter-clad
at the turn of the century, everything unsaid.
“If a hundred clerks were gathered together”
in hotel rooms across L.A.
with a hundred Socratic screenplay pitches,
“They could not write down a half of her ways,”
the intellectual, slender-faced actress,
“and her skin was so white that it looked blue,”
the Merchant-Ivory flesh, implantless;
the woman of the world, the ingenue.
I’m standing in the checkout, where
I’ve gathered together bananas
and frozen peas (yellow and green),
a line of quiet people, paper towels,
after work, with an emptiness at 5:30.
The room is white lit space, triple washed,
wrapped in plastic wrap, a plastic box
of celery and carrot cuts (orange and green),
a pack of Camel Lights, PC World.
She’s in back of me, on allure, all
shadow and blush, the black hair,
“with beauty like a tightened bow,”
if I could turn,
her eyes are
Later I click onto a Ouija site
en Español. My room is dark, my hand-eye
one with the tiny fist and index finger
sliding across the tawny board of light
to the black letters I pause to click and make
In a heartbeat, I feel the absence
in the room. All day long I’ve been alone
and now this. If transcendence begins in
the pelvic, and flows upward into the throat,
flows inward from the fingers, and a third eye
grows in the middle of my frontal lobe,
then ¿que es la pena? ¿Donde está?—
the fire begins in the center of the neck,
scorching colors, growing out-down, speaks
into the soil that shapes the skin the way
a back brace straightens the bone graft infection
spreading any way from the broken column.
My room is dark. My hands layered upon
my lap, my body and my arms make two
collapsed circles. The screen flickers, my brain
shines, the “planchette,” itself, twitches across
the pad, slips the cursor over “A”
and “D,” inverted question mark and “Sí,”
to come to rest on “No.” I have one eye
on the screen, one eye on the mouse. The room
is dark—shade, window, lamp shut down.
I’m like I’m sleeping in another city
or hanging up-side-down from my knees hooked
on a steel bar, correcting the direction
of my spine. I’ve never wept at a keypad,
I imagine many have. ¿Donde está?—
A tendon ridge from the center of my wrist
to my index knuckle, an underpass
the veins cross in the city on the back of my hand.
“Why do you so often paint yourself,
why make yourself subject?” “Porque estoy
Whether metal it is
that holds me up, or marrow, calcium, nerve,
there comes a time to close a hundred windows,
burst a hundred lit pictures, shut down
icons, bag the food, turn around
and buy the magazine, to suffer silence
as if the tool on the end of my wrist
does not exist.
It’s now safe to switch off.
Her absence lights the room like morning sun.
Dear Miss Ryder, I have made
this self-portrait of you. I hope
you like it. It’s in a temporary
frame. When I find the white
one I want, I will send it.
It’s your wild, frenzied face
of The Crucible. I used the freeze
frame to hold your head
and body in an attitude
that exploits your presence. In the pause,
I painted your face.
“As a language, Garbo’s singularity
was of the order of the concept,
that of Audrey Hepburn is of the order
of the substance. The face of Garbo is
an Idea, that of Hepburn, an Event.”
I’m awakened every morning. Something lands
on the wire above the gable window;
a red netherwing feather of a young dove,
as she may, holds me, as I am held by the real
memory of Edward Scissorhands,
premiere night photos of the two young stars,
the beauties who during the making fell in love,
hand in hand in limousine in Holly-
wood. Sped off, their absence in the street was
everywhere: paparazzi, TV lights, cars
Will you stay until
the white tectrices of the bird always
about to leap grow invisible in the snow?
When I open your door or climb your sill
to take you to breakfast all winter
in my coat and 5:30 is eight legs
wrapping you and I unwrap you, Holly,
are you already in a taxi to Brazil?
Dear Miss Ryder, I’m on my way
to completing your self-portraits
from each of your fine films to date.
My methodology: digitize
a chosen frame from said film,
center the head, face, then play
with shadow, texture, line (your eyes
in particular pose for me
dilemmas in my heart), bubble
jet one page and hang it up
close to the heat vent (it snows
here every day) (a microwave will
mar fleshtone), then to Kinkos
and the Xerox color copier: play
with light and with contrast until
you see the skin revivify.
I know how to turn away from her.
She is only skin deep in me.
I know how to turn my whole
neighborhood away from her hair
and her breasts. I’m nine-tenths me.
I know how to place her voice
reading a children’s story
outside this room, I can place her
a hundred years outside this room.
I can close my shoulders,
fold my head down, ship myself
to Mexico, because I’m nine-tenths me.
Dear Miss Ryder I rented the monster
flick you did again last night
after work and I must warn you
that for all the jump cut trailers and hype
generated by all the Holly-
wood bait and switch machinations,
those sci-fi films are not your genre.
Granted you’re attempting to play,
I know they tell you, against type,
but stop and think: so’s the alien,
for since the Spielberg Seventies
most aliens I’ve seen are friendly
and welcomed. If we don’t see today
the loss and sadness of the other,
we are left with weapons and with action
scenes exploding plot thrills
every two minutes. It’s hard to get you
for one cut of this film to stay still—
you run, you leap—and, much to my conster-
nation, the face that is most you,
the one I most want and must paint
is one you make in a laser fight
or what-not. To come to my central point,
my prospective publisher (our?)
insists I ask you to write captions
for each of your faces I’ve made.
Would be a nice touch, that. Attached,
please find my web site address
and let me know soon if you will
add your words and memories
to my renderings of your head
and get movement on this book deal.
By the way, if you misplace my address,
you can simply search your name; I will
pop up as the nineteenth match.
“It is said that no one that has a song
made about them will ever live long.”
Out of her misery, the subject:
one Winona Laura Horowitz,
a k a Ryder. Doctors
Maslin and Corliss performing
post mortem. Photographers
Ebert and Denby. 9:30
A.M. We’ve run the saw up through
center and opened her out to the light.
Shoot this bulbous sac as I cut,
shoot seven centimeters above
and capture the sweating revenant
that rises from the cage, like steam
drifting upward from an opened
corpse just recently deceased.
The six milliliters of fluid
in the lungs appear to be words that when
poured into a beaker heated,
froth in my throat. There are sentences
I have tapped through my fingers into
someone’s always drying eyes
(tear ducts and oil ducts empty
as they try to lubricate the stare).
“Ask her about the merchandise,
the emptiness.” 10:14
A.M.: lungs, lying like scripts
on a sofa, I have removed (twelve
grams) to reveal—shoot this close,
with a flash—a dead little girl
within the cavity, curled
around the heart. Her name is Polly.
It’s snowing again in Winona, Minnesota.
Stomach contents: seven grams:
indicate the swift, painless deaths
of Abigail Williams and Myra Gale Lewis.
Exploratory: look at me,
theater of the post mortem,
I’m holding the movie star’s pancreas
up to the lights—shoot this
shiny meat from several angles:
evidence of advanced stages
of suffering. Now we’re going places.
Enlarged aorta indicating
prayer flow—inhibited, however
(praying, but to whom?): speculum:
shadows on the walls of her vena
cava, shoot all of this.
in slicing into her depths, we
arrive at what is virtually her
dorsal surface: her spinal sub-
stratum, her skeletal essence,
the backbone of being, the nerve
center. This morning’s dissection of this
woman, interrupted by surgery:
I’ve made the decision at 11:06,
to fuse four vertebrae with
a metal rod and a piece of bone
extracted from her pelvis. People
would pay to see this; we could sell
tickets with the promise of sexual
violence, spectral evidence—
reveler—shoot this: a tour
of the interior of a star.
As a language, Ryder is a construct
of Winona, Minnesota, and every-
thing that is not of Winona. Oh, I’ve
cut myself with the lancet. I’m
bleeding on her intestines.
To quickly conclude:
the face of Ryder is the face of Ryder:
glossy flat; when turned back
reveals only the Oil
of Olay, a Revlon of colors.
The cause of death?
None. She’s not here.
She’s a ghost on a skateboard—
all sweat, sideflips and liptricks—
on location far away from us—
in the suburban streets of Mexico City.
Mark LaRue teaches English in the American South. He has had poems in The Louisiana Review, Hotel Amerika, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, and various other journals.