In the shorter poems, Grahn often explores love and romance in relation to perceptions of women's beauty. As in all else, Grahn has the capacity to be humorous, if "macabre" (Martinez 49), when approaching "the problem for a lesbian feminist of writing about women's beauty without fetishizing it" (Montefiore 83).
"I have come to claim," usually referred to as "The Marilyn Monroe Poem," is a ghoulishly humorous poem from Edward the Dyke. The narrator, literally, has "come to claim / Marilyn Monroe's body / for the sake of my own. / dig it up, hand it over, cram it in this paper sack" (WCW 31-2). The narrator attracts the attention of reporters, who "are furious" but also want to know "what / am I doing for lunch?" Like Marilyn Monroe, the narrator is another woman the male reporters want to have "a crack at." The narrator draws them in, using their own prurient interest against them:
Now I shall take them my paper sack and we shall act out a poem together: "How would you like to see Marilyn Monroe, in action, smiling, and without her clothes?" We shall wait long enough to see them make familiar faces and then I shall beat them with your skull. hubba. hubba. hubba. hubba. hubba.
Through her narrator's action, Grahn fantasizes poetic justice for the media that helped to destroy Marilyn Monroe and for all the women they objectify and influence, including "eight young women in New York City / who murdered themselves for being pretty / by the same method as you, the very / next day, after you!" The internal rhymes "sack," "act" and "action," reinforced by the "k" and hard "c" sounds of "clothes," "make," and "skull" anticipate the crack of beating the men senseless, reported in the familiar, lascivious nonsense phrase "hubba hubba." Rich explains, "Marilyn Monroe's body, in death, becomes a weapon[,] her bone a bludgeon to beat the voyeurs, the fetishists, the poets and journalists vampirizing off the 'dumb-blonde' of the centerfolds" (Rich, 1977, 14).
The narrator is angry not only with the reporters, not only with men, but also with the women who play up to them. After the first two stanzas, the poem is addressed directly to Marilyn; the narrator repeatedly adjures her to "be serious." Had Marilyn been able—or allowed—to be serious, the poem implies, she might have been taken seriously, as the narrator wishes to be:
Long ago you wanted to write poems; Be serious, Marilyn I am going to take you in this paper sack around the world, and write on it: —the poems of Marilyn Monroe— Dedicated to all princes, the male poets who were so sorry to see you go, before they had a crack at you.
The narrator's ambivalence shows in lines 1-3 of this stanza. Read alone, line two is a repeat of the demand that Marilyn "be serious," but the first eight lines of the stanza make one complete sentence. As parts of the same sentence, lines one and two become related statements, with the semicolon connecting two similar ideas: "Long ago you wanted to write poems," that is, to "Be serious, Marilyn." Lines two and three follow up by indicating that the narrator, who is a poet, is "going to take" Marilyn seriously, unlike "the male poets" who were only interested in Marilyn sexually.
After the last hubba hubbas, Grahn ends the poem by reflecting its beginning. In the opening three lines the narrator had declared, "I have come to claim / Marilyn Monroe's body / for the sake of my own." In the end, fantastically having vanquished the forces of objectification, the narrator implores "Marilyn, be serious / Today I have come to claim your body for my own." By the last line, the narrator is not only laying claim to the idea of Marilyn Monroe's body, she is identifying with the pain and the power of it. The action is no longer taken "for the sake of" the narrator; at the end, Marilyn Monroe's body is taken for—that is, understood as—the narrator's own, not in the sense of ownership, but of identification. Grahn explained in an interview in 1983 that the identification is related to class as well as gender: "When I think of [Marilyn Monroe], I get a terrible chill because I know that she came from a poor background and worked her way all the way up to being a suicide, and I don’t want that to happen to any of us ever again" ("Judy Grahn," 1983, 100). If Marilyn Monroe's objectified female beauty helped to subjugate women, the power of her dead body, stripped to the bare bones, can empower. A woman willing to take Marilyn (and herself) seriously can use her tragedy to understand how women are pitted against one another in a misogynist culture. Grahn accomplishes her analysis in "The Marilyn Monroe Poem" with an uproarious "Thelma and Louise" style revenge fantasy, minus the tragic finale.
Rich sees the theme of "The Marilyn Monroe Poem" recurring in Grahn's work: "Over and over Grahn calls up the living woman against the manufactured one, the man-made creation of centuries of male art and literature" (Rich, 1977, 14). In several poems, Grahn specifically reclaims the stereotyped "dumb blonde," who has become the butt of her own strand of derogatory "jokes." In addition to a poem about the famous blonde Marilyn Monroe, Grahn places "dumb blonde" in the list of "various names" in "The enemies of She Who call her various names": "dove—cow—pig—chick—cat—kitten—bird / dog—dish / a dumb blonde" (WCW 84). "Blonde" shows up in the erotic poem "fortunately the skins" (Edward the Dyke, WCW 53) and the parable "The most blonde woman in the world," in which a beautiful woman "threw off her skin / her hair, threw off her hair, declaring / 'Whosoever chooses to love me / chooses to love a bald woman / with bleeding pores"' (She Who, WCW 93). After her transformation, "her lovers" are "small hard-bodied spiders," traditionally female weavers of destiny, fate, and time. "Hard-bodied" both connotes an insect difficult to crush and foreshadows the "grand, muscley names" for love in the language of the later poem "My name is judith;" the spider-lovers protect, provide for, and empower the most blonde woman. "They spun her blood into long strands," replacing the strands of blonde hair, interacting with her, keeping her from bleeding to death. "'Now’, she said, ‘Now I am expertly loved, / and now I am beautiful."'