The ambulance men touched her cold
body, lifted it, heavy as iron,
onto the stretcher, tried to close the
mouth, closed the eyes, tied the
arms to the sides, moved it caught
strand of hair, as if it mattered,
saw the shape of her breasts, flattened by
gravity, under the sheet,
carried her, as if it were she,
down the steps
These men were never the same. They went out
afterwards, as they always did,
for a drink or two, but they could not meet
each other's eyes.
Their lives took
a turn--one had nightmares, strange
pains, impotence, depression. One did not
like his work,his wife looked
different, his kids. Even death
seemed different to him--a place where she
would be waiting,
and one found himself standing at tnight
in the doorway to a room of sleep, listening to a
woman breathering, just an ordinary
Reading poetry often makes me question my ability to be a good reader. It's hard for me to dig past what is presented at face value in a poem. And when I eventually do analyze the poem, I question the legitimacy of my analysis and general anger and sadness ensues. With this poem, "The Death of Marilyn Monroe," it is quite easy to take this poem at face value because it lacks the element of confusion that, for example, Shakespeare's sonnets (or Spenser's, Sydney's or Petrach's) have.
Initially, this poem is about the men who tended to Marilyn Monroe's body when she died. It follows their reactions and how they dealt with (or didn't deal with) the passing of such a prominent figure in society. But, in the poem, the name Marilyn Monroe is never mentioned. If someone read the poem without knowing the title, they would have no idea that this poem was about the death of Monroe. There is only one slight allusion to the nature of the woman in the last line "just an ordinary woman breathing." This line makes the assumption that Monroe was extraordinary, but then again I only see the line that way because I know the title of the poem. So if there was no title to this poem, it would simply be about men who are dealing with the death of a woman.
Ultimately, I think that is what this poem is about--the reality of death. How death can change someone. How dealing with death and loss, and being in close proximity to death can change a person's outlook on life. The only line that doesn't fit my hypothesis is the last, the one that I've already mentioned. "...just an ordinary woman breathing." But perhaps this man is listening to the woman breathing to hear her breath, to hear her living when he had to struggle with death.