You were driven, you know
(why, oh why, can’t I)
and never did locate the correct
way out, or proper note to score
the flight all the way, all the way.
There was something pushing, pushing,
from within your being, while your fame
and marriages and suicides
propelled you through
all our decades like a wiry wisp . . .
although you know the real impellent
generates at the core of your soul.
There, there boils the fury
of being . . . of residing on this side,
a tantrum against this shackle of body;
so it never mattered very much
if you sang out right, or married right,
or performed to expectations;
what mattered was the expression
of fury channeled into some acceptable
means to be heard or seen
around this imperfect world.
Why, oh why, oh why
can’t this vision of soul
let you go?
Why can’t you . . .
you knew all along
you couldn’t . . .
you knew none of us really could . . .
yet you were the wisp
who even though you knew
you couldn’t, still yearned
out your trembling question,
why, oh why, can’t I.
Judy Garland, was the assumed name of Frances Gumm (1922-1969). She made her stage debut at age three, spent several years in vaudeville, then at thirteen signed with MGM. She made many memorable movies, most famous of which was The Wizard of Oz, where she played a role originally intended for Shirley Temple. Garland’s personal life was usually in turmoil. The studio put her on diet pills, and before long she also needed pills to sleep and others to stay awake. By age twenty-one she was seeing a psychiatrist regularly. She married five times, and endured several career disasters. On June 22, 1969, she was found dead on the floor of her London apartment, the coroner attributing her death to an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Actor Ray Bolger, the scarecrow from Oz, commented, “She just plain wore out.”