The International Literary Quarterly

February 2009


Donald Adamson
Robert Appelbaum
Rosemary Ashton
Sujata Bhatt
Stephen Burt
Rita Dove
Elaine Feinstein
Sophie Judah
John Kinsella
Ron Padgett
Pascale Petit
David Plante
David Shields
Susan Stewart
John Thieme

Founding Editor: Peter Robertson
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Consulting Editor: Marjorie Agosín
Consulting Editor: Richard Berengarten
Consulting Editor: Jill Dawson
Consulting Editor: Denise Duhamel
Consulting Editor: Marilyn Gaull
Consulting Editor: Beatriz Hausner
Consulting Editor: Mimi Khalvati
Consulting Editor: Suzanne Jill Levine
Consulting Editor: Margot Livesey
Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor:
Jeff Barry
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Issue 6 Guest Artist: Anthony Whishaw

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. Five Poems  from What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo to be published by Seren, May 2010 by Pascale Petit  


              Flower of Life

            after Frida Kahlo

To strip this painting to its core

I flip the love plant

upside-down, release

a starburst of stamens and stigma –

insecticide yellow

to ward off scorpions

from our marriage bed.

And around the ruby mandragora
I let the rosette of leaves

bare their petticoats –

the business of what’s inside

and under the fireworks.

Is that an embryo’s fontanelles

in the velvet urn

or Diego’s fountain-flower?

It isn’t roots someone’s pulled

shrieking out of the ground,

but my torn fallopian tubes.

                Memory I

             after Frida Kahlo

Since I was six my right foot

has been bandaged in a boat.

But it’s only today that the doctors

add a toy sail and smash

a tequila bottle against it
to launch me on my ocean of tears.


                          Memory II

                       after Frida Kahlo

Isn’t it enough that I’ve yanked out my heart?

That there’s a gaping hole in my chest

my finest brushes worry?

So why does the sword of my eyes

pierce the wound? And why do I have to paint

two tiny cupids,

one each end of the shaft,

see-sawing up and down until the creaking

echoes in my deserted house

like a couple’s bedsprings?


                      Memory III

                   after Frida Kahlo

I stand between the sea and the mountains,

one foot on land, one on water,

among my dresses lowered from the clouds

on red veins.

The sky’s wardrobe is open, the mirror of twilight

shivers with stars where seamstresses

quickly sew, snipping each thread

with haemostatic scissors.

And just as night falls, my school uniform

and Tehuana gown each offer me an arm.

And as we walk

they speak in silk and velvet voices –

rustles from the cloth of memory.

They bring me the scents of childhood,

those seraphim-skirts and blouses –

blow me right back to the day I was whole.


                after Frida Kahlo

I’ve come to lie on the basalt plain

where the earth is trying to heal itself.

I look down a crack in the mantle

when the pain gets white, keep looking

until my chest blisters. And right down

against a roiling valve

beating like a heart

until my own heart bubbles.

This is what I have to do. Then my body

empties. The threads of my dress

spit and snarl. I soothe them.

I calm sun flares, plasma storms.

And on the cloth of fire I paint vines.

They shoot out from my hollows –

leaves large as hands

that stroke the wound of my land.