Monday, September 13, 2010

Tuesday Poem, Lee Miller, Hitler's Personal Residence, 1945, by Melissa Shook

Lee Miller, Hitler's Personal Residence, 1945,
Photograph by David Scherman

Taking into account a childhood in Poughkeepsie,
high fashion modeling,
the throat Man Ray savored, his jealousy,
her Egyptian husband, sun-warmed breasts
and luncheons with the surrealists,

Picture this vivacious artist, collaborator, inspiration,
portrait photographer, war correspondent

Slipping off her shirt in the bedroom where Hitler once
stood naked,

Folding it onto the woven rush seat of the stocky chair
where he sat or draped his robe,

Lowering her flesh toward the porcelain surface he had
lain against,

Lifting and bending her arm to touch a washcloth
to her chin, echoing the gesture,

On the sculpted nude female on his dresser, perhaps
having turned it toward the camera,

For this portrait taken on the day, the very day,
she's photographed the liberation of Dachau.

A poem from "Magritte's Rider," a chapbook published by


  1. Melissa, this is stunning, so eerily beautiful I almost couldn't read it. Wow.

  2. I really love the way you get inside the Miller's artistic decisions as a photographer here, rather than viewing her as an object of the gaze only. Beautifully done! Her body becomes the catalyst or lightning rod for the incredibly mixed feelings associated with such a moment. And the gesture of bathing is the perfect one -- we're all sullied by what happened. Bravo! I would have liked to see the photo along with the poem though.

  3. Lee Miller 'liberates' Hitler's house but gets so close to that intimate interior that she risks contamination. You get the troubling aspects of her posing.

    I wonder whether Cindy Sherman has dressed up like Hitler--or undressed like Hitler.

    Your understatement is effective.

  4. contamination is just what I thought...
    thank you all...I appreciate your kindness...

  5. A mind-exploding poem - so many reveberations.
    My envy geiger-counter went off the top scale.

  6. Astonishing poem, Melissa. How to write on this subject and to do so convincingly? Well, you have done it. I can feel the bile rising at this image - the sculptured body, the bath, the intimacy, the place, the showers in the place she'd just photographed, her (and our) contamination ...

  7. Oh and here's the link to the photo...

  8. This poem catches me in the throat, Melissa. I echo everything your other readers have already said. The restraint you have shown is powerfully affecting.

  9. It's a poem that expresses the eternal human conundrum of what is 'right' Provocative and beautifully written. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  10. thank you for your kind comments...and to Mary for finding the link to the poem...
    I'm much appreciative...much, much...

  11. exacting and awful and just superb. one doesn't come across writing this complex and revealing very often, and its impact is shocking, even tpo one who grew up in that era.