Friday, June 19, 2009

Dragonfly (page 15) ... Imelda Marcos


Since the previous poem from Dragonfly features Ferdinand Marcos as persona, it would probably be no surprise to you that the next poem — also a sonnetina — is spoken by Imelda Marcos. After composing these two sonnetinas I thought of them as an intertwined pair. A Bongbong Marcos poem came along later, completing what has become a trilogy of Marcos poems. ("Bongbong" is the family nickname of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. . . . probably a cute moniker when he was a toddler; unfortunately it has followed him into public life.)

Background stuff you should probably know: after Ferdinand died in late 1989, Imelda requested permission from Philippine President Cory Aquino to have his body interred in the Philippines with full military honors. Aquino refused to allow Ferdinand's body on Philippine soil, citing potential problems of national security. Imelda then kept Ferdinand "on ice" (that is, refrigerated) until the day when she might be able to bury his body in the Philippines.

The immediate trigger for this poem was a Newsweek article that showcased the weird activities at the Marcos enclave in Hawaii, focusing on a birthday party Imelda threw for Ferdinand and family and friends . . . after his death. I noticed that a sentence in the article fell neatly into pentameter-size lengths, each chunk ending with words that were cool repeton possibilities: "birthday," "Ferdinand," and "frozen." So I quoted that sentence at the beginning of the poem, as if Imelda were reading it out loud, and then continued the monologue in her voice, addressing Ferdinand. Probably she is sitting beside his coffin, perhaps with the lid up. Here is the poem.       (Note: please read the Ferdinand poem before this one.)


Imelda Marcos Discusses with Ferdinand
the Gala Party She Gave on September 11, 1990
to Celebrate his 73rd Birthday Posthumously

— A sonnetina starting with a quotation
from
Newsweek (October 1, 1990)
"The Imelda threw such a can't-miss birthday
bash for her very dead husband, Ferdinand,
that . . . he attended, natty as ever, in a frozen
casket." Can you believe that made the news,

Daddy? And yet, they didn't mention the new
space-age polymer coffin I bought for your birthday!
Please tell me what to do, my darling Ferdinand.
We can't afford to keep you like this: frozen

till she lets us both go home. You've defrosted
once already. That witch! If she only knew . . .
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday
to you, happy birthday, fair Andy,

happy birthday to you
. . . soon, my beloved Ferdinand,
you'll rise like the phoenix, a new Christ, from the deep freeze.



Page 15


I made up some things here, such as the "space-age polymer coffin" and Ferdinand defrosting, though these elements might not be all that fanciful. Imelda spent a lot of money on technology and utilities keeping Ferdinand frozen; at one point in the sordid saga, Imelda had run up a $214,500 electric bill. Imelda refused to pay the bill, thus threatening a Ferdinand thaw, but it was eventually paid by a family friend.

One thing I did not make up is Ferdinand's nickname in the poem (line 12). Often in the press and in blogs, Ferdinand is called "Ferdie" (and in fact the first published version of the poem contained the phrase "dear Ferdie"), but it turns out that Ferdinand, in his desire to be as American as possible, preferred to be called "Andy." In the poem, the words "fair Andy" both preserve a sonic link with "Ferdinand" and make possible a multi-layered pun about perceived blondeness as well as imagined impartiality in his political career. Obviously neither of these could be further from the truth.


Did you think you were going to get out of here without hearing (again) about Imelda's (in)famously expensive shoe collection? Above are a couple of images that allude to the whole shoe thing. The wonderful caricature on the left, by Risko, is from a 2007 Vanity Fair interview with Imelda by George Wayne. This interview, on the occasion of the release of The Imelda Collection, a fashion company founded by Imelda's grandson, is quite revealing about what makes Imelda tick. Check it out . . . lots of fun.

The photo on the right is from a 2006 BBC article titled "Inequality on show in Filipino resort." Although she is not even mentioned in the article, Imelda is immediately recognizable as a poster child for the inequalities between rich and poor in the Philippines. The reason I've included this photo, however, is that the shoe Imelda is holding in the photo does not seem to be a shoe at all. I think it's a phone. Shades of Maxwell Smart! The parallel between "The Imelda Show" and Get Smart is simply too delicious not to point out.

DRAGONFLYFIRSTCONTENTSPREVIOUSNEXTLAST
   

6 comments:

pamelavillars said...

This is fascinating. Since I'm unschooled in how to write poetry (although I do), your explanation and references are extremely helpful.

Love the poem too.

Vince Gotera said...

Pamela, thanks. Have you been reading the earlier more technical sections? For example, "Craft and Technique (1.0)" in "Greatest Hits" in the left column. Thanks again.

pamelavillars said...

I have not. But I will - thanks.

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