Poem after Frieda Kahlo’s
Painting The Broken Column
On a bench, beneath a candle-lit window
whose sheer curtains resemble honey
sliding down a jar, Kahlo lifts her skirts.
A brown monkey chews a tobacco leaf
between her calves, tail brushing her thigh.
A skirt falls, its hem splashes on the concrete
like urine. A ruby ring on her forefinger.
No, the tip of her cigarette. Smoke rising.
The long hair of an old woman drowning.
Once a man offered me his heart like a glass of water. No, once…Here’s
a joke for you. Why do Mexicans make tamales at Christmas? So they
have something to unwrap. A lover told me that. I stared into his
eyes believing the brown surrounding his pupils were rings, like
Saturn’s. I have to sit down to say this. Once a man offered
me his heart and I said no. Not because I didn’t love him.
Not because he was a beast or white—I couldn’t love him.
Do you understand? In bed while we slept, our bodies inches apart,
the dark between our flesh a wick. It was burning down. And he couldn’t
Ask me anything.
I want to find the perfect shade of red. Say that.
A shadow drapes itself on an apple branch. Slow. Slowly. Jade moss
on the trunk intensifies like applause. Wind-braid wrapped around
my neck, unraveling: cold hair cascading toward my shoulders—July
Ladies and Gentlemen once again I would like to begin with the wound.
An oval basket of roses on a dresser,
petals across the carpet, candle flames blown off their wicks.
Diego sleeps! Blue sheets pulled to his waist.
A fly lands on his right eyelid
and for a moment it looks like one eye is open.
Jumping onto the bed a monkey begins to lick the sweat
pooling in the hollow of his chest. Under a night stand lamp
a drawing of Stalin—the light silvering the metallic ink
of the uniform buttons.
Constellations of coins scatter copper and silver light onto the
butcher paper taped above a dresser.
Crystal pitcher full of milk, arranged with lilies.
Torn sketch on the floor.
Through the window, sky like a torn sketch of the ocean.
Kahlo glaring at a self-portrait
as if her gaze were responsible for holding it to the wall.
The perfect shade of red:
the stain on an arrow pulled out of a dove.
Under the cold scaffolding of winter my love took me for a walk through
the desert. My breath crumbling like bread.
Under the cold scaffolding of winter my love took me for a stroll
through the desert. My breath crumbling like bread.
Under the cold scaffolding of winter my love took me through the
desert. My breath crumbling like bread.
Kahlo undresses in front of a mirror.
Her spine, a pouring of sand
through an hourglass
clutching the linen
draping the lower half
of her body, her fingers lost in its pleats.
A mirror remembering water.