for Frida Kahlo



In the year

nineteen hundred and seven,

nineteen hundred and ten

I was still unbegotten, as yet –

You were born

on the other side

of the world,


in Coyoacán,

a village, marked by the rhythm

of the city

              of marquis Hernán Cortes,

where the weekly market

              brought native farmers into action.


They came from Xochimilco, San Jerónimo,

Iztapalapa, Milpa Alta. You


came from another race.

You were begotten by a German-Hungarian father

who was an epileptic dreamer

                                          and took photos of you,

and pious mother who was self-effacing

                                          and gave you life –

        she remained imageless.


You were born in the blue house

in the village on the far side –

with winding streets

                             and evening parties on the square,

with the twittering of birds in the garden

                             and the soothing sound of a fountain,

the noise of children

                             munching on Christmas sugar cane,

sweet nothings being said on street corners

                             and the sing-song accent of Indian women

selling noche buena-flowers.


At the end of your life you had to sell yourself.

Although I had not yet been fathered

and was not yet of this world,

you invited me

in the form of an old corrido

to an unparalleled



I was to come at eight in the evening

to the gallery of Lola Alvárez Bravo at Amberes 12.

The doors were right onto the street – there was no mistaking them.

There hung your paintings on the wall waiting

to be commended to me.

I sought your friendship –

             your motherhood, your soul.

But you were unable on your own legs

                                                       - legs! –

                                      to come to this spot.

Diego transported the four-poster bed,

you were loaded into an ambulance.



From your bed, in a Zapotian dress,

wearing golden and turquoise earrings,

you gained an overview.



You wanted death,

the death that roams about and takes life,

such as that of Chabela Villaseñor,

                                                 Rita Novísimo,

                                                                      Dorothy Hale.

“Farewell, Chabela.”

                             Farewell, Rita.

                                                 Farewell, Dorothy.



You wanted to kill yourself.

You wanted to kill yourself

with the pathological knife

that was kept an eye on.

Your mistake would have been greater than your pain –

you made no mistakes.



Fortunately you did not jump

out the window of your flat,

Fortunately you did not gas yourself

with the exhaust fumes of your car,

Fortunately you made peace with the days

without the red,

                 red blood of the hart.


Slowly though you exhaled the last air from your lungs.


From the twenty-fifth of January

to the thirteenth of July

you exhaled the air

from your lungs.


You exhaled your last breath in the year

I inhaled my first.


You were the window that was lashed by the gale.

You were the handkerchief that was dragged through blood.

You were the tear on a sea of tears.

You were the ray of light on my path.


You hoped that your departure would be happy

and that you would not return again.


You were cremated in the lovely white Yalalag blouse

at the Dolores crematorium.


But you were the Tlazolteotl of the old Mexicans,

the goddess of the earth and fertility

who carried death and life

in her body.


You were an Atzec in your Indian costume,

the long dresses with bands,

                        like those worn by the Tehuanas of Tehuantepec,

the embroidered blouses from Oaxaca,

                        from the sierra of the Huaxtecos,

the large, silk rebozos

                        from Michoacán or Jalisco,

the satin shirts of the Otomi women

                        from the Toluca valley,

the huipils from Yucatán decorated with

                        colourful flowers,

the terracotta jewellery and the earrings in the form of a cage

                        in which fireflies were kept

                        as if they were diamonds.


On three occasions it came to a pregnancy

that on two had to end with an abortion,

                        in San Francisco,

                        in Mexico-City.


In Detroit you bore a germ, a child –

no embryo –

               safe in a bulb

               whose roots stretched down

               to the innermost parts

               of the earth.

But you were unable to give birth to the germ, the child:

a congenital defect.

Your pelvis was too narrow

and three times broken.

You were wasting from a syphilis infection

originating from a distant past.

This explained

                    why you did not give birth to the child,

                    why from your grave you gave

                    me your last breath.


You lay in the Henry Ford Hospital in a flying bed,

surrounded by hovering, tormenting image,

                 a broken pelvis, an orchid,

                 a bidet with surgical instruments,

                 a strange banner, a slug

                 and a three-month old foetus.


A curse is better than a voice that sings.


You were forty-seven when you went.

I almost went when I was forty-seven.


What links us is your breath

                 and our accident.


On the twelfth of October

I got into a second-hand car,

on the twenty-fifth of September

you got into a brand-new bus


which was to take you from the Zocalo square to Coyoacán,

but at the corner of the Cinco de Mayo and the Avenido de Cuauhtemotzin,

just before the market of San Juán, the bus was hit by a tram.


Your first thought was

the nice, colourful tumbler

you had bought that day, but you had

                  broken your spinal column in three places,

                  broken your pelvis in three places,

                  broken your left leg in eleven places,

                  broken your hip and several ribs,

                  crushed your right foot,

                  dislocated your left shoulder,


and the steel handrail of the bus

went in through your left side

and out through your vagina –

that is how you lost your virginity.


But you kept your passion

and passed it on to me –

to live,

to survive.


You are my escuincla, my bitch,

I am your novío, your lover.



            “Heute ist Immer Noch!”



Say nothing

of corsets and crutches,

the wheelchair and the bed.


Frida, you were still a child

when afflicted by paralysis,

you had the leg of a war god,

and wore high-necked boots

          and children called out after you:

Frida, pata de palo!”

           Frida, cripple, hobbler.

But you kept on.

You kept on to the end,

while I, when I was forty-seven,

dragged myself along passages and paths

with nobody calling out nasty things at me.


Frida, you were unable to give life,

but you found peace

in surrogates:

            spider monkeys such as Fulang Chang,

            the chicken, the cat and the hairless Itzcuintli dogs,

            the mouse deer Granizo

            and the eagle Gran Caca Blanco,

while my children became substitutes

for my faithful friends.


Frida, just as you lay in your bed

under a canopy and a mirror

and painted your self-portraits

– as the only possibility –,

so will I write my poems,


just as Diego stood like a third eye

in your forehead,

so will I remain faithful to you

and prevent your long hair from

twining round your neck and strangling you,


just as I fetched the fragment with Tierra y Libertad on a red flag

out of the wall painting by Diego,

out of the palacio nacional,

to decorate the cover of my first book,

so will I continue to honour you,


just like you, I will creep though the ó in Pinzón,

to the centre of the earth,

to an imaginary female friend,

       a sister, Rita,



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Joris Iven