I never met her--but there she stood on the back of one of the bedroom doors in our house, gracing a poster taller than my parents. I remember falling asleep to that black and white image: city street, sturdy legs, skirt billowing up, one hand holding down the pleats but not really. It was either my brother’s poster or a poster we pitched in for my father—I can’t remember—grade school. Maybe 7th grade.
Then she made her way into a collage I was making at a tiny round table in Joyce Renwick’s basement. (Joyce pulled me up by my bootstraps after graduate school and not only rented me her basement apartment, but talked some sense into my poetry loving brain...“Yes, you can write, but you have to earn a living until your writing can earn your living...so let’s figure out where you can teach....”). Dutifully I landed a few summer creative writing workshops to teach and by night, scored essays at one of the testing agencies in Iowa City.
As I made the transition from graduate student to working teacher that winter, I made collages. This particular one featured a stained glass cathedral window, the grey and white photo of a hummingbird, the fanned feathers of its extended wings mirroring the white fan of that same girl’s skirt, same pose. The hummingbird and the girl were separated by a close-up of the petals of a rose, and one of those angels stepping down out of the sky in silken robes on the verge of catching fire. I hung the collage at the foot of my bed where the dark paneled walls had not yet been painted white, and the low popcorn ceiling seemed to undulate even after I closed my eyes.
In secret rebellion of my working life, I’d taken up astrology. I drove beside my “real astrologer” friend Bonnie through the bitterly cold night several towns over to our teacher Andrea. For homework Andrea handed out five charts of public figures. Our job was to guess. Only one of the charts floated into focus, given my rudimentary sense of the energies of the planets. It was so long ago I can’t haul up the specifics of the chart; I only know I recognized something, like when you are swimming in a body of water and you sense, for example, a seal, or a dolphin approaching before you spot them beside you. From this chart, I got a visceral sensation of vulnerability, charisma and danger woven together. I thought it might be her.
Yes, Andrea nodded, you have Marilyn before you.
And ever since then, the reverse birth image never left me, of petals, hummingbirds, and Marilyn trying to breathe.
“Marilyn” is currently up this week, thanks to Salome Magazine, at http://www.salomemagazine.com/
I’ve left the astrology to my more talented friends, like Bonnie Orgren (M.S.W. Astrologer, Counselor, Healing Touch, Reiki). To get Bonnie Orgren’s beautifully written and free monthly Stardust Seven Ray Services Reports on planetary happenings, write to her at: starlight7@Lcom.net or you can go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ICEarthSpirit/ and look up Bonnie's latest report.
Joyce Renwick: In Praise of What Persists, a collection of short stories published posthumously by editor Richard Peabody available at: http://www.gargoylemagazine.com/books/paycock/whatpersists.php
To read a 1995 interview with Joyce Renwick: http://www.gargoylemagazine.com/books/paycock/renwickinterview.htm