Poem about transformations: Unravelling Strands

June 6, 2024

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra of Self-portrait with Cropped Hair, Frida Kahlo (Mexique, 1907-1954) at MoMA. Licensed to creative commons. Border and background added.

Sadie Souter’s poetic reflections on female identity inspired by Frida Kahlo’s Self Portrait with Cropped Hair

I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best
– Frida Kahlo

Her jaw like crescent moon hangs
above the jut of shoulders.
Buttoned into coal black,
her stone-carved edges
fold in on themselves and blur.
A prang of light reels fast
off two steel blades, balanced
between her fingertips.
Frida sends her hair sprawling
like corpses to her feet.

I wedge the gift-shop postcard
under the frame,
bathroom-sink mirror.
Frida plunged in silver. I start
at the chin, working up.
Chunks of peroxide-blonde fall
and with them goes the SNAP
of a babydoll’s neck.
The girl who played dress-up
in her dad’s suits.
The fear of hot-pink.
Tom-boy, Tom-
boy. The cruel laughter of kids.
All slurped up
by the plughole.

I carry her in my wallet,
catching gasps of Frida,
numinous, genderless,
as I fumble with loose
I tip back my spiky head,
wind licking my bare
neck. I think
we, made of hair,
history and sunk in music,
are ever-forming things.

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