From the spectrum of ghosts, I painted
this house blue to guide my father
and mother to my door. They sit
with Diego and me in the yellow kitchen.
Papa’s hands tremble
when he lights my cigarette.
Mama trails the scent
of incense from evening mass.
behind his camera.
He records the portraits of our shadow
selves—the ones we want
the mirror to reflect. Papa reminds me,
“Do not smile. You seduce the camera.”
At Mama’s feet, the dogs
lick crumbs of pan dulce
from her fingers. She fusses
about the kitchen. From the strongbox
of her chest she pulls
a white handkerchief, bandages
my painting to soak up its blood.
Her rosary beads click, bones breaking.
She is tired of my gashes and scars.
When she returns to the spirit world,
I will reopen the wounds. They are
the palette from which I paint myself.
This house of cobalt
is the womb where I will die. For years
Death and I have played
at the game of exquisitecorpse.
Before my first communion, Death drew
my withered leg. I counter,
sketching my heart. See
how it palpitates in my bare hands?
Frida Kahlo Prepares an Altar for Día de los Inocentes
The sugar skulls that honor my babies
are tiny as the skeletons of the doves
fallen from the thorn trees onto the patio
of the Blue House. No sugar letters
spell out names on the skulls.
My broken body took each baby
from me before I knew if it was he
or she. The nest of my pelvis is flimsy
like the sticks the doves throw together
to cradle young. For my angelitos I bring
a toy truck, tin whistles, cardboard puppets,
a baby’s gold necklace. I raid the garden
for marigolds, string them into garlands
to drape over the altar, bright as lights
around a carnival ride. Their fragrance is bold
as mariachi trumpets—who can sleep?
Tonight sit with me. Drink tequila.
Sing for the Inocentes, yours and mine.
When it is time for them to slip back
to the spirit world we will kiss them on the lips
of their souls, where Death dares not touch.
We will pour a shot for Death. And laugh.
Susan J. Erickson helped to establish the Sue C. Boyton Poetry Walk in Bellingham, Washington. Her poems have appeared recently in Crab Creek Review, Floating Bridge Review, Knockout Literary Review, The Lyric, and Switched-on-Gutenberg.website • contact