Self-Portrait as a Tehuana
by Lena Judith Drake
I pluck my eyebrows every morning,
in the magnified side of my ex-roommate's hand mirror;
the pinching out hairs make me sneeze,
and sometimes when I do this,
I think about Frida Kahlo.
I ride the bus in half-hour increments, on tiptoe,
gripping the metal railings above my head,
backpacks and purses pressed into my stomach, underarms,
grocery bags with half gallons of milk
and boxes of microwave noodles tapping the backs of my thighs.
Frida, you rode the bus in Coyoacán.
A steel pole, sharding, took your virginity, you said,
your knees bumping the passenger in front of you, gold powder
on your bleeding tongue.
I tugged my hymen with my fingers impatiently,
my knee denting his thigh.
You painted, cast still damp around your body, boned wrist sore,
your spine flailing around your implanted metal brace.
The curve of my spine traced by my mother's cold fingers,
plastic padded corset, dirt stuck in velcro,
metal buckles snapping under my baggy shirt
and skidding down the high school hallway.
My plastic Boston back brace.
Well, at least it'll make your waist smaller, the doctor said
(pinching and diarrhea acid)
and push up your breasts, make them look bigger
(malformed rib bones).
From inside your rib bones, you wanted a baby,
but only sometimes.
I vomited oranges and milk into a wastebasket,
bleeding into my parents' toilet.
I was young so I was too gentle, I touched
the insides of my lips to the soft smooth of her areolas,
almost as light as the rest of her skin,
afraid to use my tongue too much.
I kept mostly to the line of her sternum, sweat trapped from all day.
I didn't want to stop tasting it.
You had a girl who painted flowers,
swore they were only flowers.
I had a boy who bought me an orchid plant, and I swore
I saw in between a woman's legs on each blossom.
My roommate and I tossed the plant in the dumpster when I moved out,
into old Papa John's pizza boxes
and crunched-up packing tape.
I dream I'm in a parking lot, lit by fires
and my brace is too small now,
they told me I wouldn't have to put it on again.
It feels like someone is
hard plastic and holding me,
spine muscles atrophy, but I wake up,
just bare back,
skin peeling off in Saran wrap strips.
A woman, undressing, tattooed next to the curve, instead.
Frida, you came to my city, once, before I was born.
You birthed yourself in Detroit,
step on the cracks and break your mother's back.
Diego is on your forehead, querida, but you alone are in your mind.
Let me be there, too.
Lena Judith Drake is currently a creative writing student at Grand Valley State University. She is Puerto Rican, a poet, and a feminist activist. She is also the editor-in-chief of Breadcrumb Scabs Magazine. You can find more of her work at her website, luminous//misjudgment.
February 1, 2009
Self-Portrait as a Tehuana