We’re wrapping up our celebration of American Archives Month. Throughout October we teamed up the Academy of American Poets to publish original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the all the poets performing their original works, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel.
Today’s poem, “In a Legendary Light” by Regie Cabico, was inspired by an image of Marilyn Monroe.
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926, Monroe endured a different childhood to become one of the most well-known sex symbols of the 20th century.
As a model, actress, and singer, Monroe dominated Hollywood during the 1950s and early 1960s.
This 1954 photo shows Monroe appearing with the USO Camp Show “Anything Goes.” She is posing before a group of enthusiastic fans after a performance for the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division in Korea.
Monroe’s life was tragically cut short in 1962 when she died of a drug overdose.
This photo is just one of the millions and millions of photographs housed within the National Archives. Many photographs can be viewed in our online catalog and on our Flickr page.
In a Legendary Light
by Regie Cabico
I walk with simple people
who wish me to believe that I am not an instant…
I lock the door and hear a knock. An angel peeks
from the corner of a mirage…
says my mother is the gardenia
a nurse planted in her breast pocket
My father’s a secret gauze, crinkling,
the day I breathed…
I don’t thank Fate, nor count my muses
but give thanks to mathematics,
the number 7’s breathless proportions.
When I was a model, I spoke as a model.
When I was an actress, I spoke as a girl
enamored by sunless rooms and yellow bars of spotlights.
(If the camera won’t love you, who will?)
My nose was crooked like a long bridal veil
plink, plink, plink, I got married.
I knelt at the tabernacle of chaos.
plink plink, plink, I got married
and mistook vodka for water.
A gallon of sleeping pills and I dream of Neptune.
Playboy parts scattered like bones on glassy paper.
A centerfold, the portable trap of my vulgar self.
I pretended to be a baby chick locked to what its eye first seizes.
a quiet blonde shell without a libretto
whose skirt flutters in wild pentameters-
a GI’s obscene flag.
I consider myself a missionary to the suburbs,
like McDonald’s or a really long rope.
A dimestore magic trick in legendary light.
“May Day May Day” cries the tabloids,
the lack-luster pages of my weekly planner.
Housewives want to be me
but I’m only a glass bottle poised in a publicity still.
I’m just a woman. Bewildering June.
Norma Jean. Lightheaded and I have strange dreams.