Diane Kendig


And to speak of Maria Blanchard cannot be, should not be, a cold literary exercise.
--Paloma Fernandez-Quintanilla

i. Lorca's Elegy

Between teen face fuzz and the family mirror,
I saw my first painting by her:
a faun and four bathers,
and I thought of a tall Maria, here

in scarlet, shabby and vulgar as an Amazon.
I took out my little notebook to write upon,
The one, all boys carry to open
and inscribe with names of women

they don't know but would like to take
to a room of moss and illuminated snails
in some tall tower or a ship with full sails.
"Wait," they said. "She's a hunchback."

I come today not as critic or connoisseur
I tell you not for truth or falsehood's lure:
Maria's lifelong search was a dry one,
no miracles, but one of pure earth, pure.

ii. Maud Sumner, Her Student

"C'est fini, n'y touchez plus,"
she would sometimes say.
when I wanted to work longer on a certain canvas.
"Then take another one, and go further
on that, if you can, doing the same subject."

"Tant pis si on est malade,"
as if not sick, she struggled to earn enough.
Matisse, Claudel, and Severini used to come.
Picasso not so much, busy
with his own work. But he was at her funeral.

She was in great pain,
and I could hear her cursing. Maria
slipped away quietly in my arms.
I still have bits of her furniture. Friends
have said to me, "Why don't you get some nicer?"

I don't always tell them the reason.

* * *


In the painting, she and Diego stand together
wearing the traditional Mexican garb, all earth tones
except for the red rebozo that scallops her arms.
The background is a stage.
Their heart-shaped handclasp centers the canvas,
and a pink dove, pink banner in its beak,
flies across the right corner.
Diego carries a pallet and brushes.
Frida carries nothing. Her hand's light on his arm
as they stare straight into us.
"Perfect Marriage of the Perfect Couple,"
she could have called it, months later
when she finally completed it.

In the photo moments after the ceremony,
perhaps she knew otherwise. She eases back in a chair
as a boxer rests against the ropes between rounds,
and the way a melodrama heroine slings her scarf
round her neck as she leaves for a rendezvous,
Frida has slung her shawl over her shoulder where his hand rests.
Her hand rests on her own knee, and,
while he stares slightly to the right, as though on the lookout,
she looks sideways to eye him, her head
angled, and her chin, on which she'll take
her share of this marriage, is not tucked but jutted.

* * *


The window square whitens and swallows its dark stars,
the weeping woman goes weeping along the riverbanks
Shall she not find comfort in the sun?
At night, she holds his pillow to her ribs and rubs.
(Memory, that preposterous and unreliable refuge
of things once loved and taken for granted.)
He could be a girl with his long brown arms.
But how to speak to a man who does not see you,
who sees ogres, satyrs, perhaps the depth of hell itself?
He does not look up into the ever-changing expanse of morning,
lighting the secret ways we selve our works and days.
Your health is bound to be affected if, day after day,
you say the opposite of what you mean.
I see the body of the woman who pulled him into it.
Love, chimed the saints and angels.
Hate, shrieked the gunmetal princess.
Marriage could be the caption.
What is there to know?
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall.

First published in Poemeleon.


Diane Kendig's fourth and most recent chapbook is titled, The Places We Find Ourselves. Her work may also be found in J Journal, Minnesota Review, qarrtsiluni, and others. A recipient of two Ohio Arts Council Fellowships in Poetry and a Fulbright lectureship in translation, Diane is a Midwesterner, currently living out of place in the Boston area and teaching at Bentley University.