When Princess Diana Died
Meghann Plunkett

When Princess Diana Died

My mother held vigil by the blue light of her television for weeks.
        Each station, on 24-hour loop, flashed photos of her soft
curls, the princess with her head tilted down under a crown
        of diamonds. Over and over, they panned along the masses
of flowers and candles left to wilt along the Pont de l’Alma. It was
        August, and the pond outside our home sat so still algae
grew thick enough to tint the water green. No one could fish.
        The ocean tripped over its own red tide, washing ashore
wooden lobster traps, empty and rotting. The Paris police retrieved
        her car with the claws of a large crane. The lights
of the paparazzi glittered through our home as my mother blinked
        in disbelief. Upside down, the hood sparked along the asphalt
as they dragged it from the mouth of the tunnel. The airbags, inflated,
        looked like eyes rolled backward into a crushed skull. Our shades
drawn, she wept—wouldn’t leave the house. For years my mother
        wore her hair like hers. Light, short, clipped to the back
of the neck. Years of flipping through magazines to learn what was allowed.
        The princess wearing a red skirt with a slit. My mother showing
off her long legs the next day. I don’t understand, I don’t understand,
        she opened and closed her mouth as I fed her soup. The royal family,
silent, refused to lower the flags. She had left her husband and couldn’t be
        honored. This is what happens when you try to have your own life.
The palace gate closed with no response. My mother huddled by the fan,
        chewing ice cubes from a chipped glass.

Meghann Plunkett

is the recipient of the 2017 Missouri Review Editors' Prize, as well as the 2017 Third Coast Poetry Prize. She was a finalist for Narrative Magazine's 30 Below Contest, The North American Review's Hearst Poetry Prize, and Nimrod's Pablo Neruda Prize and has twice been recognized by the Academy of American Poets. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in Narrative, Pleiades, Rattle, Muzzle, Washington Square Review, Poets.org, and elsewhere.