The Ice Pick Surgeon
(For Frances Farmer)
The customers couldn’t see
the star you once were
as you had them sign the register
at the front desk, or called the bell hop
to collect their bags.
They didn’t know the Frances that
could not be controlled,
that bucked authority at every turn,
that engaged in dangerous politics,
that lived the role of raging, mystic
better than any role played on screen:
The Frances that escaped like vapors from a tea pot
that afternoon years ago
hidden from the reporters, the flash bulbs
in a private examination room.
No directors for your last performance,
no cameras, no costumes-
Cold sanitary room,
On the stainless table, you lay.
Only took a mild shock to put you out,
Dr. Freeman said to you,
and it will be over before you can count
backward, from twenty to one.
A nail punch slipped under
the eye lid, a tap with a mallet
punctured the bone,
broke the crust,
a few swishes back and forth
against the orbital plate
severed nerve endings
like Hollywood contracts.
They gushed, flushed
with relief at your bed side.
No more of your aggressiveness,
no more limelight or rage,
no more communist writings,
no more vitriol-
nothing but calm.
At last, for them,
you would be a good girl.