National Poetry Month April 30, 2020
Frida Kahlo, Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed), 1932
Frida, not everyone wants to see you unclothed on a hospital bed in the open air, industrial Detroit on the horizon, blood puddling beneath you. Clutched in your hand, long umbilical cords attached to floating objects: model of the female reproductive system, a snail, an orchid, your pelvis fractured in a bus accident when you were eighteen, and the male fetus you miscarried.
Miscarried, an odd word, -mis (wrongly)—to carry wrongly, as if you chose an incorrect way to carry your unborn son.
You and Diego lived in Detroit while he completed a series of murals depicting the industrial work at Ford Motor Company. You were homesick, returned to Mexico to see your ill mother before she died.
When shown in a New York exhibit six years later, your painting was titled “The Lost Desire.” I never desired to have children. People don’t want to believe that. I’ve been told a marriage isn’t valid, unless it results in children. Schooled, as a preteen, by the faith I was raised in— procreation the only purpose for sex. Even then, I knew bullshit when I heard it.
This is a hard poem to write.
I wish your son had lived.
Frida, thirty years after your death, I was ecstatic to buy my first book of your art, an oversized coffee table edition with full-color, whole page photos of your paintings. The male clerk slid repulsed eyes over the cover—Self-Portrait with Monkeys. His mouth squinched up like he’d bit into an extra sour lemon wedge. “I never cared for her,” he stated, eyes lowered. I pretended not to hear his unwanted opinion. What I wanted was to slap his face, utter a few choice curses.
This poem has not yet been published
1. What inspired you to write this poem?
Frida Kahlo’s painting titled “Henry Ford Hospital” or “The Flying Bed,”finished in 1932, inspired my poem. I’m working on a collection of ekphrastic poems about three women painters who lived around the same time (Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Emily Carr)—their work and their lives.
2. What do you like about this poem?
I like the feeling of intimacy I created by writing the poem addressed directly to Frida. I wanted to mirror the intimacy of her painting, and to respond to the pain so unflinchingly portrayed.
3. What would you change about this poem?
I’m not sure yet. The poem is relatively new, and I’ve already made several revisions to it. I might consider writing it in the contrapuntal form.
4. Where, when, and how often do you write?
I don’t have a particular time or place to write. I write almost every day, often in a coffee shop, a library, or a park—near water or trees. Or on a really cold day, in my car warmed by the sun. I write whenever I have the time, even just a half-hour—whether in a doctor’s office or car repair waiting room. I always have writing and poetry books in my car.
5. What poetry books are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading “The Carrying” by Ada Limón, and “Light into Bodies” by Nancy Chen Long.
Links to my poetry collections published by Dos Madres Press: “Swim Your Way Back”(2014),
https://www.dosmadres.com/shop/swim-your-way-back-by-karen-george/, and “A Map and One Year(2018), https://www.dosmadres.com/shop/a-map-and-one-year-by-karen-l-george/.
My Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/karenlgeo. My Twitter handle is: @karenlgeo. My website is: https://karenlgeorge.blogspot.com/. I review poetry and interview poets at Poetry Matters: http://readwritepoetry.blogspot.com/, and am co-founder and fiction editor of the online journal, Waypoints: http://www.waypointsmag.com/.