Correspondence: Trenzas
Margaret Mackinnon

Correspondence: Trenzas

As a young woman, the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo suffered an injury that left her unable to have children. An exhibit of her letters and photographs was held at El Museo de la Filatelia in Oaxaca.

This old afternoon can’t stop talking.
So many ghosts assemble,
their scent fresh as your paintings.

Green rain in the courtyard outside these walls.
So many versions of the same question,
each one hollowed with longing:

Podría yo tener un hijo? Could I have a child?
Letters to your doctor, to your lovers,
photographs of you, your husband and his lovers.

In one, you hold your sister’s boy,
un chamaquito dressed like a charro.
the weight, the warmth of him

as if he were your own.
So many versions of the same question:
La sangre. Diego. El mono. El bebé.

So many failures, none of them really yours.
This afternoon grows old with names.
So come with us now, estimada Frida.

Had you really wanted so much?
Come with us—
out into the city’s unruly elegance,

joining the procession we’ve all been waiting for.
Come out with us into your mother’s ancient city,
its graffitied beauty, this waning day

where a battered, off-key trumpet leads us on.
And streets wind through cobbled neighborhoods,
festooned doorways crowded with flowers.

And look! Rows of young women march up ahead.
Black as their eyes, their identical braids
wound with brilliant ribbons urge you to

come out into this twinned tenderness,
these lines of daughters, each of them now yours.
A thousand reinventions of the wanted child.

There’s only a little time. We must move slowly,
trailing faithfully behind la Virgen
who rides in grandeur on her flat-bed truck

holding tight her son,
her other hand stretched out toward us
and offering

what we know is ours: water behind the dust,
purpled clouds shot through with light.
And another morning, when the doves will sound again

from the neighbor’s roof.
And roses, just visible, now—
See them? There, out beyond the far, indifferent hills.

Margaret Mackinnon

has contributed to Poetry, Image, New England Review, Crab Orchard Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals and is the author of The Invented Child (Silverfish Review Press), winner of the 2011 Gerald Cable Book Award and the 2014 Literary Award in Poetry given by the Library of Virginia. She lives with her husband and daughter in Falls Church.