Mia Farrow, Victim Soul

I wonder what my life would have been like had I not been afraid of so many things. Sitting on that school bus, I was afraid (in no particular order) of amputation, nuns, God, the devil (especially the devil), certain diseases but mainly leprosy, and my nannies — all of them, even Mary Red Socks, who only came on weekends. I worried about saying or doing something that would make my mother or father love me less, or that my parents or siblings would die, vacuum cleaners, killing someone, getting lost, and grown-ups in general…


Putti we called them
:winged babies’ heads—
curly Cheshire cherubs,
swirling ‘round Mary like Dorothy’s dwarves,
bubbles down heaven’s drain.

I heard pretty first, then
party: my ninth birthday—
perched up on our garden wall,
hugging my wounded knees.

Jump the other children shouted.
Don’t I thought, and did, and

tried to laugh it off, to move.
Heads bobbed above me like apples in a tub.

Pain, I thought, is French for bread.
Cooks and nurses carried me to bed.

So tender I thought polio
that sport of skipping hooves;

thought I was getting a pony.

At the highest attainable level of the tree, the massive trunk parted and branched up toward the sky, forming a nest. It was to this place, above the rooftops of Beverly Hills, that I brought the small pets that had passed through my life —the dead hamsters, lizards, guinea pigs, birds, and turtles of my affection, each in an open box covered tightly with Saran Wrap. I placed them there, among the branches, and over time, with deepest respect, I watched them rot.


All I see is ceiling
As I stare, a sea reveals itself,
but stagnant, sickly green, as still as I am,
swaddled in steel

my head poking out,
magician’s assistant —
but this trick will be: making me whole.

I’m ok I feel fine now please

but the walls swallow my voice.
Clock’s hands row the slowest boat.

Sirens scream then suffocate.
Shoes squeak like (I imagine) mice.

It makes no difference if I die —
Purgatory’s just like this
:a box of screaming children

waiting their turn in this iron lung
such a Frankenstein thing
We’re kept alive by lightning of a kind

But are we children still?

Later I’ll find out they burned my toys.

And later, much, the day will come
I’ll even miss these still, green nights,
will so need even more than then
some great machine to help me breathe.

Tour buses crept up and down the streets of Beverly Hills, pausing in front of each celebrity’s house while a guide chirped starry anecdotes into a microphone — you could hear them coming a half block away.

So for the folks on the buses, our shows were frantic, in the broadest, operatic style. We spattered ourselves with ketchup-blood that was stored, along with the rubber dagger, under the rhododendron bush. We strangled, stabbed, staggered, crawled, rolled, and writhed. And we howled and screamed at the top of our lungs.


Some say Roman brought it on himself
by tumbling unsafe numbers –
ouija cameras rolled across one sticky “x” too many
cut cut cut

:that counterclockwise pesach
bloodied door, and firstborn dead…

My family is a flesh Winchester House
of shuffled names, uncommon skin;
some tender fort, a
demon-baffling labyrinth I thought

a knife.
My shorn head
rippled on the blade,
a cameo ghost

Damn you and your “wanting” heart
boo hoo

I pierced that silk one with terrible care
Then gravely dealt out the stamps,
A patient game.

Today, arms crossed, I stare out from the porch
at the usual trees & last year’s birds,
here in this new century
(once unthinkable without him, without her)

I am now as I was then:
A pair of eyes on a stalk

From a distant fragment somewhere in the mind of God I was shown a different Earth, a giant orb, howling out its long symphony of pain – all the sounds of mortal anguish, in the silence and indifference of the stars

The children scream for ponies but I tell them
(hauling up another weary pail of air)
God can only hold our empty hands.



(Italicized excerpts from Mia Farrow’s What Falls Away: A Memoir (Bantam: 1997)