The Flying Bed
after Frida Kahlo
After the third miscarriage
what else could I do
but erect the bed-easel
and paint so furiously
my bed levitated
out of the Henry Ford hospital
into the region of giant hailstones
where my baby girl
floated in her altocirrus dress.
While the nopal cactus
opened its blood-red blossoms on my sheet
I painted an eagle
with its wings on fire.
I looked down at the Rouge River complex
and every factory hissed
like the steam sterilizer
everything moved like a landsnail.
I raised the mirror
and began my self-portrait.
The Bald One gave me a necklace
of desert dew.
She called me Xochitl –
Flower of Life,
I flashed her a smile – my teeth
capped with rose diamonds.
Self-Portrait with Monkey
after Frida Kahlo
All day, I paint my spider monkey
next to me in this green mirror.
When the leaves start to rustle,
Fulang-Chang grips my neck,
too frightened even to yelp.
His fur has the same texture as my hair.
His left hand looks like a loose braid
that could choke me. Some days
are like this – my black hair
must be restrained by red ribbons.
Hours pass. The bristles on my brushes
work like furtive birds. The leaves
grow large and restless, as if
they are hiding a forest floor
where I have buried a troop of monkeys
alive. As if the only sound in this
whole house, is the breathing of animals
through thin straws; even tonight,
when it’s too late, and I am long dead.
And you, brave viewer, meet my gaze.
Pascale Petit’s second collection, The Zoo Father (Seren, 2001), is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and was shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize. It won an Arts Council of England Writers’ Award and a New London Writers’ Award. Her first collection was Heart of a Deer (Enitharmon, 1998). She was born in Paris, grew up in France and Wales, trained as a sculptor at the Royal College of Art, and lives in London where she is poetry editor of Poetry London.