“What Happened to Winona Ryder” by Erin McIntosh

I looked up and saw the wrong thing.
I walked over and did something bad.
I mean, I felt bad about it afterward.
We were fifteen when we learned
to stop talking about what we really mean.
It was an exercise in driving our care
to the dump. Shoving it out of the car
and asking them to take it away.
We were asking for it. We didn’t know
any better. We promised our mothers
we’d get better at wearing sunscreen
so the light wouldn’t wreck our perfect
skin. They kept warning us about wrinkles.
They said nothing about cancer, hospital
beds, hairlessness. They said nothing
about calling up to ask for help.

What happened to Winona Ryder
was everybody’s question. I was
twenty-one by then and knew more
than anybody else. What happened
was a simple case of misunderstanding
how to be in the world. What happened
to Winona Ryder was an example
of someone wanting something
and not knowing how to get to it.
She just went about it in the wrong way.
I knew this because everyone told me
I was smart and yet I kept getting
things wrong. My friends assured me,
saying, you give very good advice.
Now try following it.

But Winona I understand your anger
and how once having thought everything
there is under the sun to think,
all that remains is one’s desire. I fear
my own desire is becoming my identity
and I don’t know what to do about it
either. Do you feel me, Winona?
Do you remember what it is to want
something and be handed back words
like no and bad and wrong? Shame
gifted to us by our loving parents
in place of joy or taffy or familial love.
I nearly pray Holy Father forgive me
and Winona too for screwing this thing up
but I stopped going to church a long time
ago, not long after a girl two blocks down
was burned to death by her boyfriend
and I could no longer stomach
anybody else’s praise and thanksgiving,
least of all mine. I couldn’t stand to lift
my arms to a heaven I wasn’t sure
I wanted to visit. If all they remember
us for is our mistakes Winona, so be it.
If no one remembers me at all,
well amen to that. Thank God for that.

Erin McIntosh is a writer and actress currently living in Los Angeles, CA. She served as the youngest judge and panelist for the inaugural Cybils Book Awards three years running and also spent several years as part of the founding volunteer team for the award-winning non-profit organization readergirlz. Her poetry has appeared and is forthcoming in various journals including Bone BouquetLavender ReviewHawai’i Review, Plenitude Magazine, and Speak Easy Mag.

Image: “Winona Confused” GIF from giphy

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