When I heard, I went to the newsstand to see for myself —
her blurred blondness pictured everywhere.
And I remembered being a senior in college,
standing in the student union, reading People magazine:
Diana engaged — the photo showed her legs in a see-through skirt.
Goose-egg diamond ring too large for her finger. She bit her nails the way I did,
and was tall, like me, and awkward —
and at first she weighed what I weigh when I’m thin,
but the papers said she was chubby, so she lost it all,
became ethereal, rose above ordinary women.
Then there was the wedding.

I graduated, moved to Miami, lived in a slum,
worked at the Haitian Refugee Center, beat roaches to death with my shoe.
On lunch breaks I stood in air-conditioned supermarkets and read about Diana.
She was pregnant now; Life did a series of photos.
I remember the red wool coat trimmed in black,
and the dress she wore when she brought little Prince William home.
I thought I’d never get married. I was too weird and too poor
and didn’t know any eligible men, except those who needed green cards.
So I hitchhiked across Canada with a truculent communist.
Anonymous and penniless, we slept in parks, rolled in our blankets.
I got burrs in my hair, and he cut it all off, leaving a curly bush.
When we stopped at truck stops for coffee, there were magazines:
Diana, too, had altered her hairstyle. I didn’t like the chignon.

Diana in sapphires and pearls, Diana in a ball gown dancing in Australia,
Diana in military drag inspecting a big cannon.
She seemed a Barbie doll, with her million outfits,
the kind of doll my feminist mother had never let me own
because it would have given me the wrong idea about life.
After I left the communist, I went home
to work with poor people again, a variety of jobs, none well paying.
I had five roommates, ate popcorn for dinner, bought my clothes at Goodwill.
Meanwhile, Diana had another baby. She lost the weight
more quickly this time. I got married myself.
A friend made my dress; I stood barefoot outdoors,
crowned with flowers, stunned with blessings
But for Diana, all was not well. Soon I learned
about the the vomiting, the anorexia.
My husband and I were doing great, no children to keep us busy.
We could eat artichokes at midnight, make love whenever we wanted.

We moved to California and I gained fifteen pounds. Not a single
newspaper reported this fact. I was trying to be a writer.
I often thought my life had no purpose. I knew how Diana felt
when reports of her depression leaked out. I, too,
seemed to have it all — a husband who loved me,
and enough money at last — but sometimes I felt
even worse than when I’d been broke and alone.
I didn’t have a job or know what to do with myself,
so I’d stand in corner stores, shamefully chewing chocolates and reading
about a young woman who didn’t know what to do with herself,
although the makeup and workouts killed a lot of time.
Her marriage broke up two years before mine did —
but she’d had a head start.
Of course, my husband was no Prince Charming, but then,
neither was hers. Mine shut himself up in the study
and played solitaire on his computer while our life together withered;
hers hunted grouse in a skirt and carried on with a married woman who shot foxes.

When we both finally separated, I was curious to see how we’d do dating —
it seemed we shared some troubles there, too, although
she met more men, and usually looked better while meeting them.
Like me, she worked with poor people to put her own troubles into perspective,
and to try to be of service. And since most of the world
is so poor — even an ordinary American woman
is unimaginably wealthy by, say, Guatemalan-peasant standards —
the fact that I had a car and a job and a refrigerator full of food
put me in a class equal to royalty, in a way.

I got more stories and poems published in magazines,
not the kind that carried pictures of her
on ski vacations with her sons, or frolicking in the Mediterranean,
but literary magazines, some of which were read by real people who wrote back.
I was a writer finally, although that didn’t make me feel much better.
It was like getting married, or anything else I’d tried:
sweet to taste, but no solution. And poor Diana!
They said she was unbalanced. The stories got more bizarre: weeping fits, fights.
I had to read them, standing in line buying kitty litter at Thrifty’s.
There she was, sneaking out the back door of her gym,
getting ambushed by photographers again.
Then the millionaire Egyptian playboy, all the photos of them on his yacht,
and suddenly, death. Out of nowhere.
The most popular woman in the world
ended up being driven into a wall after a night of drinking,
proving it’s hard to be great but fatal to be ordinary.

I borrowed a friend’s TV and watched her funeral at three in the morning:
dark-suited men following the coffin, the frozen ex-husband,
the spoiled thoroughbred of a brother,
the two young sons like shorn lambs.
Abdi, this Kenyan hippie with dreadlocks
who lives down the street and shares my community-garden plot,
saw my light on and rapped on my window.
I let him in, and he crawled into bed with me and dozed,
his brown arm around my waist.
“English royalty are a bunch of pirates,” he grunted into my hair.
Well, they had plundered and occupied his country.
Diana’s last boyfriend was also a man of color,
although considerably wealthier than Abdi,
who fixes his glasses with masking tape.
On TV I saw the crowds lined thirty deep,
white lilies trembling on top of the coffin.
I wondered what dress they had put on her, inside that box.