Carson McCullers Was a Man, Or Marilyn, 1962
Elizabeth Ellen

The woman with hair and breasts best described as Marilyn, 1962 is asking me questions pertaining to my mother. This is not the first Mexican restaurant we have eaten in together. Where my mother lives there is a Taco Bell across the street. The woman looks displeased or indigested. The woman is seeking information I have not provided. I have told her, "Also there is Cher in Mask and Stevie Nicks on the cover of Bella Donna." The woman leans forward, uses an acrylic nail to fish a broken chip from the bowl of salsa. The woman drives a car with a license plate that reads: G SUS. It is safe to say that the woman's interests are no longer cinematic. When I met this woman she had a nude painting of Marilyn over her bed and a dog named Monroe. The dog has been dead five years and the painting has been replaced by one of a nonspecific floral arrangement like the kind you find in a crappy motel. My mother named my childhood dog Carson. My mother put herself in charge of naming things, among other institutions. My mother wrote poems for Yoko Ono and Gloria Steinem. My mother had no opinion of Marilyn Monroe. Again the woman -- Marilyn, 1962 -- is asking a question. The woman's daughter is to my right and my daughter is across from me. The age difference -- two years -- is notable. I have evidence, a well-worn photograph at the bottom of my purse. I dig deep and come up with a tube of Chapstick. We all go home empty-handed.
In the room where I am sleeping there is a picture of Elvis on the wall. This is something else my mother has in common: shooting our television with a rifle. The first time I saw a photograph of Carson McCullers was in a biography of Marilyn Monroe. Arthur Miller was in the photograph, too, but no one writes poems about Arthur Miller. When I return my mother will say, "You need to pick your loyalties." I believed into my twenties that Carson McCullers was a man. If I try really hard, I still do.