Tuesday 6 July 2010

A Poem for Frida Kahlo's Birthday

Here is a poem for Frida Kahlo's birthday, from What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo. 'Flower of Life', like all the poems in my book, has the title of one of her paintings. The Mexican mandrake is a cactus flower and through it Kahlo seems to both celebrate the life force and mourn her inability to have children.

Flower of Life

I flip the love plant
upside-down, release a starburst

of stamens and stigma –
insecticide yellow
to ward off scorpions

from our marriage bed.
And around the ruby mandragora
I let the rosette of leaves

bare their petticoats –
the business of what’s inside
and under the fireworks.

Is that an embryo’s fontanelles
in the petalled womb
or Diego’s fountain-flower?

It isn’t roots someone’s pulled
shrieking out of the ground,

but my torn fallopian tubes.


  1. I want to thank you for your work and what you do. Your work is incredible and makes me feel at home. And i don't have many places that i can call home- you have beautiful links and resources that i am looking forward to exploring and being a part of... thank you for your beauty! And i look forward to exploring your work... love love... xxx

  2. Thank you Philip, Sonia, I appreciate your comments.

    Stefanie, I love the idea that my poems might make you feel at home. That's an idea that the exiled Chinese poet Yang Lian has written about in his latest collection 'Lee Valley Poems' – that poetry is a home for the exiled.

  3. Thank you so much - I am off to check out Yang Lian. xxx

  4. I really enjoyed reviewing your book...the small details you illuminated added so much to my understanding of Kahlo. I hope to read more of your work soon.

    My review is at


  5. Hi Amy,

    Thanks for reviewing my book on your blog, much appreciate the close reading, and thanks for the link. I will follow your blog which looks very interesting with your emphasis on translation.



  6. Hallo, Pascale!
    Wondering whether Frida Kahlo had written any poems, in order to post one in my blog, I tried the Google.
    And lo and behold!I found you and your Poems
    after Frida Kahlo.
    I am thrilled. Really.
    So, in honour of such happy coincidence, and instead of any other comment, I send to you a poem of my collection "Ηλιακό Ποδήλατο", which, being possibly Greek to you, means in English "The Solar Bicycle". The poem has been translated by me. Here it comes!

    Alfama by Vassilis Polyzos

    So early in the morning
    the bells still held
    the angel
    hidden under their tongues
    the empty flowerpots
    sweet basil in their memories
    alleys of the codfish
    paved with amber and ivory
    and these exquisite silks
    of the spider
    just touching fleetingly
    your eyelids
    before the beggars of the castle
    start on their rounds
    their hats brimming
    with blessings and curses
    and the Tejo spellbound
    in the magic of fados
    ere the sun wakes him
    by emptying a pitcher
    of vinho verde
    upon his face
    at this hour
    (you mused)
    will be leaving
    her ephemeral lover’s bed
    Maria Consuelo Assunsion
    demi - mermaid
    demi –haze
    her heavy plaits
    (gold red brush-strokes
    by Titian)
    flowing down to her knees
    the marks of south wind
    on her nape
    in days gone by you wrote
    on her open carnations
    the song of songs
    with your lips

    From my Collection Ηλιακό Ποδήλατο (The Solar Bicycle)published by METAIXMIO, 2003, Athens

    Ps. Of course, the place of this poem is Lisboa, Portugal, not Mexico. But that is just a detail!
    Have a nice day!
    Vassilis (Basil) Polyzos