Wednesday 6 July 2011

A Poem for Frida Kahlo's Birthday: Diego on My Mind

Frida Kahlo was born on 6th July 1907 and died in 1954 at the age of 47. Here is a poem from What the Water Gave Me: Poems after Frida Kahlo to celebrate her birthday. She often painted herself with a portrait of Diego on her forehead, as in this painting Diego on My MindHere, she is speaking to him and perhaps to herself as she used to feel very alone when he was out with his celebrity mistresses.

Diego on My Mind

Today I chose the ceremonial huipil
with a lace cobweb framing my face.

I have made a fine bed for you
with the white frills of my Tehuana headdress.

And on the counterpane of my brow
           just where the pillows would rest
I have painted your portrait.

All day you keep me company
as I work each gauze bud
into a stiff flower.

You whisper encouragements from the mirror,
nestling deeper into my forehead.

But remember, when you take
          María Félix
                    Paulette Goddard
                              or my sister

to your dirty yellow hotel room,
they lie on my eyes.

My nose smells them.
My mouth stays closed. Every love-cry

is a silk tendril
          quivering in my silent house.

Tomorrow I'm going to Cardiff to the Wales Book of the Year ceremony, particularly thrilled to have What the Water Gave Me shortlisted for this Welsh prize as I grew up there so it feels like my adopted country has adopted me. The UK edition is available from the Welsh publisher Seren and the US edition (just published) from Black Lawrence Press. I'll be giving an illustrated reading from the book at Pallant House gallery in Chichester, 6pm on Thursday 28 July, during their Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition which opens 9th July. Can't wait to see it!