Turquoise

 

& then the woman who wants

to sleep with my husband

sends him a card with Frida Kahlo's sepia

face peering through it & he

begins reading the note aloud to me, as if

the words might bring the woman back

across the line she crossed that summer

he mentioned her name for the first time.

Then I think his brush with temptation

isn't as noble as he'd like to believe, more like

cleaning the house when it gets dirty—he could

mark it on a table of triumphs, but, at the end of the day,

it mostly amounts to what he is supposed to do.

Men are so clueless sometimes,

which isn't a revelation, but occasionally needs restating

& brings to mind something I read about

Lenny Kravitz composing penitent lyrics for Lisa Bonet,

for committing particular betrayals

to song, how he believed the pair might reconcile

as soon as Lisa heard the album he'd dedicated to her.

Women are clueless sometimes, too,

like the one who cried to me on a campus bench

that she wanted to be an artist, to travel,

while the others rushed to lunch, to more classes.

& what should she do? Then I thought,

 

People are always asking questions whose answers

they already know & That's a great necklace she's wearing

 

which I told her, but she recoiled when I said

wearing turquoise jewelry & Frida Kahlo skirts

doesn't make women artists, which was probably the cruelest thing

I'd ever said to a young woman, but exactly how I felt

watching her fuss over the ruffles of her long, black skirt.

These days, Frida Kahlo appears like a god to whom I've

prayed, like accessories that shake at the bottom of a woman's

shopping bag, a loose divinity of feel-good postcards & magnets

rocking on paper handles in the crease of an upright arm.

This is what I think when I ask my lover to stop

reading the note he wants me to render harmless.

 

Does a woman's affection for Frida make her

my comrade? Years ago, with my head wrapped & bracelets

jangling, I might have answered yes. But when I ask

Who's Lupe, Who's Frida, Who's Diego? I can't help but conclude

someone's at work on a grand cliché I'm supposed to buy into

& there's nothing harmless about Frida Kahlo, exquisite painter

of stitches & steel, thorns & wombs & vaginas—something utterly

misleading about Frida's face on a 4 x 4 note card, a little

too neat & too square, which makes sense in the American sense

of matinee love or lust or art or what passes for art, or living

the life of an artist, those heroes & heroines dangling over

the cliffs of vanity, begging for a little more rope.

 

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