Letter to Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale

BY Julie Marie Wade

“There are a good many roads here,” observed the shaggy man, turning slowly around, like a human windmill. "Seems to me a person could go 'most anywhere, if starting from a place like this."

Each time, crossing Kansas, I think of you there, among the baleful hay of Wamego.  

One Halloween, in a blue gingham dress with braids in my hair & a fat cat crammed in a basket, I set out down the dustless streets, determined to make my adventure.

It’s not that I cared less, you see; it’s not that I’ve ever forgotten.  But there’s something in the air that can’t quite contain you, in the faces of family & farmhands you once thought you knew.  (They thought they knew you, too.)   

Dorothy, I’m wishing I could show you how the longing just stops—or suddenly fades—while Aunt Em in the crystal grows fainter.  

Perhaps I’ve lost my good heart like the Tin Man, leaning here with this ax in my hand.  Still, don’t you reckon—every now & again—a cyclone could really come in handy?
We have planes, trains, & automobiles.  We even have hot air balloons.  But Dorothy, a word about those ruby shoes: if they’re really yours, as they were never mine:

Close your eyes, by all means; click your heels three times.  There’s no place like—no place like—

Say Helena.  Say Galveston.  Say Kalamazoo.  Just promise you won’t say Home.


Letter to Judy Garland as Francis Gumm

You didn’t imagine—how could you?—the fame the future had in store.  Days like these I half-expect to see your face on a pro-life poster, testament to the talent & beauty of the unwanted child.  

You were the baby, the one who came late & lonely & never longed for.  (I was the first, the last, the only: nothing but a promised victory in a lengthy war.)

I remember the sound of you singing in the dark, my Fisher Price record player that spun the past softly, made it stick.  Spun the past so sweetly, in fact, I mistook it for the present, & you for the dreamed-of sister, warbling in the other room.

When I saw you the first time on our black-&-white TV set—grown but still small, a pretty Midwestern girl making believe she was Hollywood in the strange disembodiment of the stage—

Your voice a tower dwarfing your form, shrinking the world to one raw desire: hit the high note, hit it every time, & there was lift-off in your language & the dark flutter of your eyes—your lungs a cannon you were blasting out of…

It was Judy you became, mid-air, over the rainbow & over the moon; Judy, brought low again under the big tent—all eyes on her; the spotlight too bright, the encore too long—

Judy, the great hush like snow that has fallen.
Francis, the name buried under the snow.


Listen to poems from our National Poetry Month "30/30" combo issue!

Julie Marie Wade is the author of 2 collections of lyric nonfiction, Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures (Colgate University Press, 2010), which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir in 2011, and the recently released Small Fires (Sarabande Books, 2011), a current Lambda Literary Award finalist.  She is also the author of the poetry chapbook Without (Finishing Line Press, 2010), and the forthcoming poetry collection Postage Due (White Pine Press, 2013), which won the Marie Alexander Poetry Series.  In May 2012, Julie will defend her dissertation at the University of Louisville, followed by a grand celebration at Lynn's Paradise Cafe.