Address What Matters

Gailmarie Pahmeier

You know you want Marilyn’s dress.

Not the one your mother wanted, not  

the rhinestone second-skin she sang his song in—

Happy Birthday, Mr. President--not that dress.


You want the simpler but also sleekly tight

little thing she wore here, in this Nevada town,

the dress she wore while drinking shots at this bar

in Dayton. Cocktail cherries, halter back.


You want this dress because she wore it here

but also because everyone who watched her

learned of her secret special talent,

how she could wield a paddleball 100 times


and never miss a strike. Her hips, egg yolks sliding

around a big bowl, kept time, and so did the men

who loved her, or wanted to. No one, not even

Huston nor Miller, knew she could do this,


could create this moment of pure carnal joy.

The movie was The Misfits, and you watch it

every year because it matters, Marilyn matters,

this bar where you and your third husband


spend long summer hours--it all matters.

Everyone has a story here, and some

remember Marilyn, or say they do.

If you had her dress, you could be fearless,


could show everyone who’s ever doubted

that you have skill, you can shudder air.

You would move with a ferocious heat

like the dry desert dust, which is where,

when you’re done here, you’re headed, no matter what.

Gailmarie Pahmeier, Reno Poet Laureate, Emerita, teaches in the MFA Programs at UNR and Sierra Nevada College. She is a recent inductee into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame and last year’s recipient of the Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities Award from Nevada Humanities.
Photos courtesy of Gailmarie Pahmeier.


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