Thanks to a friend’s good looking out, I was able to live the dream at the AWP Conference in Boston last month. Among the many highlights of the trip was the fact that I got to meet and verbally stumble in front of poet whose work I adore, Eduardo C. Corral. As I struggled to find my thoughts and seem cool, he was just generally delightful, and helped to make the copy of Slow Lightning I’d picked up months before really mine. His words are so lovely that you don’t realize the strength of the image they’ve made until the next line. I’ve selected a poem that is best read from the book itself, but you’re in for a treat all the same.
Poem After Frida Kahlo's Painting The Broken Column 1 On a bench, beneath a candle-lit window whose sheer curtains resemble honey sliding down a jar, Kahlo lifts her skirts. A brown monkey chews a tobacco leaf between her legs, tail brushing her thigh. A skirt falls; the hem splashes on the floor like urine. A ruby ring on her forefinger. No, the tip of a cigarette. Smoke rising. The long hair of an old woman drowning. 2 Once a man offered me his heart like a glass of water. No, once . . . Here's a joke for you. Why do Mexicans make tamales at Christmas? So they have something to unwrap. A lover told me that. I stared into his eyes believing the brown surrounding his pupils were rings, like Saturn's. I have to sit down to say this. Once a man offered me his heart and I said no. Not because I didn't love him. Not because he was a beast or white--I couldn't love him. Do you understand? In bed while we slept, our bodies inches apart, the dark between our flesh a wick. It was burning down. And he couldn't feel it. 3 Ask me anything. 4 I want to find the perfect shade of red. Say that. 5 An shadow drapes itself on an apple branch. Slow. Slowly. Jade moss on the trunk intensifies like applause. Wind-braid wrapped around my neck, unraveling; cold hair cascading toward my shoulders. 6 Ladies and Gentlemen once again I would like to begin with the wound. --Joseph Beuys 7 Diego sleeps! Green sheets pulled down to his waist. A fly lands on his left eyelid, and for a moment it looks like one eye is open. A monkey jumps onto the bed, begins to lick the sweat in the hollow of his chest. 8 Constellations of coins scatter copper and silver light onto the butcher paper taped above a dresser. Crystal pitcher full of milk, arranged with lilies. Torn sketch on the floor. Through the window, sky like a torn sketch of the ocean. Kahlo glaring at a self-portait as if her gaze were responsible for holding it to the wall. 9 The perfect shade of red: the stain on an arrow pulled out of a dove. 10 Under the cold scaffolding of winter my love took me for a walk through the desert. My breath crumbling like bread. Under the cold scaffolding of winter my love took me for a stroll through the desert. My breath crumbling like bread. Under the cold scaffolding of winter my love took me through the desert. My breath crumbling like bread. 11 Kahlo undresses in front of a mirror. Her spine: a pouring of sand through an hourglass of blood. Her hands clutching the linen draping the lower half of her body, her fingers lost in its pleats. 12 A mirror remembering water.
For reference, the painting.
For more, Corral’s blog.