By Matthew Hittinger
Marlene Dietrich remembers the night of the Marilyn Monroe
Productions press conference, New York City, January 1955
I wanted to be that trace of scarlet lipstick
when you arrived, tipsy, a bit chartreuse
a subdued platinum angel, a white mink
stole. I am at heart—Come up for a drink—
a gentleman. You, a question here to seduce,
a pink thought traced by scarlet lipstick
a deer drawn to a salt lick. I am the brick-
back, brick-thrown widow of a caboose.
I lift my black veil. I drop my black mink.
To the bird, flown—we toast with a clink.
You created ‘the girl.’ “Their golden goose
is now a scarlet smudge.” Your lips stick
to the wine glass and all I can do is wink
out a song, the tricks of an aging chanteuse.
You call a cab and grab your white mink
while I play my saw, and all I can think
is I am not a myth a recluse who will recuse
you to remain a trace of scarlet lipstick
caught on the collar of a white mink.
“According to Barbara Leaming’s biography of Marilyn, Dietrich invited Monroe up for a drink at her Park Avenue apartment that night and found the sight of a lipstick trace on the collar of Marilyn’s white fur ‘maddeningly erotic.’ Dietrich’s voice lent itself well to the villanelle, perhaps the most ‘maddeningly erotic’ of the poetic forms.”—Matthew Hittinger