by Lorette C. Luzajic
“I paint flowers so that they will not die.”
1. My first time in Mexico, I walked through Frida's garden, ran my fingers across her empty wheelchair when no one was looking. I flushed at her proximity, felt warmth from the elaborate skirts caught in the wheels. My heart skipped to see the paint pans she last swabbed for colour, and again, to see her perfume. Shalimar, like mine, for special dates, and for funerals. I imagine that heady spice of powder and ambergris, uncorked, daubed against her rose-gold skin.
2. I stood in front of Frida, The Broken Column, at the other museum, taking in another self portrait of her, inside out. All vertebrae and shards, anatomical hearts exposed to the hostile sun. If some saw Diego as Frida’s Ted Hughes, she refused this cold, ill-informed blasphemy. Every work she painted was his and for him. He was an accident, that much she admitted plainly. But he held her together, pulled her scattered scars into a life the way God breathed into dust and made it all of mankind.
3. Before her lover, the grandest artisto of Mexico, Frida was torn to shreds in a train crash. She was impaled through the womb on a steel rod, found asunder, bleeding out into oblivion. Only eighteen, the children she longed for were buried on that train, but she survived to face another thirtysomething years and as many surgeries and mutilations.
4. She had already lived through polio.
5. Frida was not constrained by her corsets, bandages, or crutches. She bloomed where planted, a still life in her bed, still alive and painting whereever she was. She lost everything, and then she lost her leg: we stood outside the glass display of her flower-embroidered, wedge-heeled prosthetic. Her medical talismans have taken on a fetishistic aura, like voodoo relics, like talismans.
6. They divorced over his affair with her own sister. They married again, despite her own extracurricular dalliances with socialist intellectuals, and as many female artists who posed for him that would have her.
7. At Walmart, I contemplate Frida’s Barbie. Bold brows, strong arms, Mexican skirts. I want to be back in her blue house, surrounded by swooping blooms and the bric a brac of her life in painting.
8. I could care less for Diego, that rotund brute with brown slacks hiked under his armpits, belly tamed by suspenders. His art never moved me. His saggy jowls and bowling ball torso seem crude caricatures. Still, I owe him something more than knee-jerk aversion. She could have belonged to anyone, but he was the one who truly saw her.
9. We trade a few pesos for tumblers of fresh fruit at the market down the way, stare curiously at carts of ornately swaddled Jesus dolls and edible creepy crawlies. The meat cleaver falls like a hammer on a skinned heap of sallow, yellow chickens. The noise is unbearable, and the crowds are even worse than the heat, and a steady red line drips from the altitude-thinned membranes of my nostrils. Even so, I’m hooked. Addicted. I want to mainline Mexico City into my veins.
10. The sickness doesn’t leave me when I get home. I turn pages, finding Frida, in my art books. I chop up jalapeños for tacos. Throw orange and navy colour blocks on my walls, import a couple cacti from the corner cart. Kneel before a makeshift shrine, petition the Virgin like mad for love like hers.
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"Shalimar" is from the new collection Pretty Time Machine: ekphrastic prose poems, by Lorette C. Luzajic, avaiable on Amazon.com.
Lorette C. Luzajic is an award-winning visual artist whose mixed media paintings are collected internationally. She is also a widely published poet, and the founding editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted to literature inspired by art. She has been nominated twice each for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Visit her at www.mixedupmedia.ca.