After Frida Kahlo

We only come to sleep, we only come to leave.
ItŐs not true, itŐs not true, that we come to live on the land.
                                             Old Mexican Folk Song

Beneath my lovers face, there lies a skull;
at night his chin casts shadows on his breast.
Beneath Judas' flesh, a ribcage, birdcage.
In bed, I dream of a dead child; my womb
is a withdrawing snail: it wanes like the moon.
The Virgin's face reveals a grinning skull.
The doctor unpacks my shattered organ,
and says my youthful folly is to blame.
The saint's fingers were white under the skin.
Still machines pump, the purple orchid dies
and my violated pelvic bone remains.
In the distance, skyscrapers grow erect, wheels turn.

When the pumping heart is torn away, the eagle carries that prickly fruit to the sun.

And they meet with a sense of height and danger
as if they stood together on the stairwell
of a tall building: the fire below
whispering words like trap and parchment and panic.

Pressing her forehead against his cheek
is leaning on a window pane – the long drop below.
They close the door as smoke fills the room
and lie down in the heart of a crumbling building

Just as the blustering folds of trees speak a language,
mimic the sea, so do his ears, mouth, eyelashes
and his softest parts. Behind the door
the flames shiver in reveries of wood.

She whispers another language to goad him, soothe him.
In the smoulder of her skin is a singing
faint as the trickle in grass after a rainstorm.
His fingers on her body tighten the strings of her.

Under the flesh, the ribcage, birdcage: never before
have they felt this singeing of the ribs and spine.
When the building falls away, two tin hearts leap up –
stones thrown up over water, birds arcing through space.

The young moon goddess rides the waxing crescent as the ground quakes beneath her.

At dawn she falls from the centre of the world,
and by morning she no longer believes in fate.
Broken in the dawn, that indignant girl
of previous days, fearless in back-streets,
oblivious to men who stare; this girl
defaced, defrocked in the bleak light.
What of those many objects collected
from the busy night streets?
A key will unlock me.
A toy car propels me.
A silver hat-pin knits me.
She bent down distracted by a glint
in the gutter, too late to see that man
charging towards her like a freight train.
She looked up at the oncoming traffic
with surprise and some curiosity.
At dawn she recognises pain,
and by morning she cannot trust in fate.




For that which is born, death is certain... Therefore grieve not over that which is unavoidable.
The Bhagavad-Gita

Some nights he'd make a cup of hot chocolate
before we went to his room: the kitchen
that always smelt of roast beef, milk in a mug
and the microwave timer ticking down.

I stared at the digits, dismantled them with my eyes,
numbers that appeared and vanished in the flash of lines.
Milk bubbling, the mug on the table where I sat,
the jar of chocolate and heaped teaspoons.

I stirred it slowly until the milk turned brown
and the steam was coated with the powdery smell.
Trying to drink it slowly, I ran my tongue
round the mug's rim, placed it on the mantelpiece.

'Haven't you finished it yet?' He waited
lounging in front of the TV, legs sprawled open.
I read the TV guide, filled up the time with my voice;
by then it was too late and he had to drive me home.

       © Zoe Brigley 2004