The National Poetry Review

 

White skull papier-mâchéd to
her face, daughter self against
sky. Frida—I’m afraid in here.
It’s hard to breathe sometimes.
In the book Stacey gave me they say
you painted this for fears & guilt
about the children you miscarried—
they say the landscape is bleak, our
Mexican Plateau. They might not hear
us, Frida, behind the masks—they’ve
misunderstood again, that horrible
ojosuaro they think you invented swine’s
eye
. I’m afraid. In here. It is always us
alone & the girls we lost the girls we
were the girls we never—

Jennifer Givhan

GIRL WITH DEATH MASK

Frida Kahlo, 1938

She’s all over my wall, different ages, different years
rarely carrying her tagete bloom for laying graveside
en día de los muertos. I wore a watermelon pink dress
tied at the back when I was
a girl & never imagined
the funerals I’d become.

My daughter
Adelina, when I told her
of the bus & pole, that metal handrail impaling Frida’s belly
(I couldn’t tell her where it emerged)
went to the wall & lifted a wooden portrait, held
it to her chest & cried Are you hurt, Frida? Are you—

Tiger mask eyeless, tongue amok & jagged
teeth. Lipstick or blood smudged like
Mama’s medicine cabinet. Frida—I’m
afraid in here. It’s harder still, being alive.

JENNIFER GIVHAN is a Mexican-American poet from the Southwestern desert. Her full-length poetry collection Landscape with Headless Mama won the 2015 Pleiades Editors’ Prize (forthcoming 2016). Her honors include an NEA fellowship and a PEN/Rosenthal Emerging Voices fellowship, the Frost Place Latin@ Scholarship, The Pinch Poetry Prize, the DASH Poetry Prize, a Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop fellowship, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets, AGNI, The Kenyon Review, Rattle (where she is a poetry prize finalist), and Southern Humanities Review (where she was a finalist for the 2015 Auburn Witness Prize). She is Poetry Editor at Tinderbox Poetry Journal and she teaches at Western New Mexico University and online at The Poetry Barn.

Advertisements