Of Girls and Death Masks

“I’m glad you sent the girl away.
A heart so young, so innocent, so… alive
shouldn’t have to witness this sort of thing.”

“Well, she’s—”

“Quiet, woman;
don’t you hear the girl’s steps?
She’s stomping our way.”

My mother-in-law’s shaky hand,
the one she had held over my words,
fell limp against the side of her black dress.

“I tried to tell you,” I whispered.

“What’s wrong with you, girl?
You grow to mock another’s loss?
Such queerness it’s not—”

“She’s an ordinary child, suegra mia;
giving, loving, traditionally fed
by this land.”

“I,” said my child,
twirling a wild flower with unsure fingers,
her voice low under the Death Mask,
“I wanted to say goodbye to the old grandmother,
give her a bright bloom for her travels,
and sing for the one who will come in her place.
Am I being queer, mamá mia?”

I took a knee in front of tomorrow,
removed the Death Mask and touched her skin.
“Look into my smile, flesh of mine,
do you see queerness in this grin?”

“But Grandma said—”

“Your Grandma’s new to Pueblo Viejo.
We have to talk, to fight, to smile, to dance, to eat
together until we see each other proper.”
I handed the Death Mask to my mother-in-law.

The old custom shook in her knowing grasp.
She took a knee in front of tomorrow,
and they smiled together, before mi suegra said,
“Would you tell me about little girls and death masks?”

Note: yesterday, a dear friend told me that she was so happy for the miracle of having found one another; there were days, when the world made her feel like a freak. I slept with her feelings under my pillow… This poem brewed in my heart, while I dreamed of worlds where the word “freak” defined nothing more than an ordinary things kept under ignorance’s mask. 

Girl with Death Mask, by Frida Kahlo

28 comments:

  1. If ignorance begets freaks, then Love begets friends

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    1. Yes, ma'am. And that is the gift of all gifts. ;-)

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  2. I love how one persons words can inspire so many lovey words from another.

    I agree totally with Eliora :-)

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    1. Applause! from the peanut gallery! And I love Frieda's Art! Coupled beautifully! xoDebi

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    2. Feelings--good and bad--are contagious. I think it's one of the main reasons why we should smile a lot, and try to be as happy as often as we can manage... that way like can call to like and then the goodness can spread!

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  3. We shy away from the uncomfortable, and from the dark. There's no reason for that. I remember finding a book of the dead. All Victorian era children. I looked at each one, carefully, noting the features that their mother's likely loved, and missed for the rest of their lives. I remember a friend finding that freakish. But these were babies, lost too soon. For some of them, that was the only photo their parents ever had of them. They were loved, and they were lost. I felt like really seeing them, was how I could honor their brief lives.

    I'm not afraid of the dark. Because when we love, and when we care, we bring light to it. And when we honor all phases of the cycle, life, death, rebirth, we find our balance and our place.

    Your words are beautiful, and I absolutely loved this.

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    1. People can be rather strange in what they consider creepy. I've always been a tad confused of people fear and rejection of anything that brings thought of death. I guess mortality can be scary, but so is decapitation and we don't take off running every time we see an ax, right?

      All we can do is talk to each other. See if we can learn from what we hold inside and make things better. That's what I think.

      So glad you liked the words. ;-)

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  4. Oh! What a wonderful use of 'the taking of a knee'. :) And delightful. I love your dialogue in the metre, it makes everything alive and intimate, the best overheard conversation.

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    1. I just recalled our "bending a knee/taking a knee" conversation from some time back and giggled. I like it.

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  5. Another wordy winner full of dark delights and forbidden things. I love that you don't shy away from the hard subject matter and instead give it a voice that can be heard.

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    1. Hard subjects give good words... particularly when they have bones in them. ;-)

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  6. I love that you made me think of Death in the non-traditional guise! Living in New Mexico the last 5 years gave me so much more knowledge about how others see death. It was so much more in tune with how I had felt. Thank you!

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    1. Death is such a mysterious lady. She deserves all kinds of word-outfits, methinks.

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  7. I've always been a "freak." I know now that there are names for some of the psychological struggles I've had. However, I don't want to be merely a diagnosis. There are certain things that make me who I am that I've learned to suppress in order to silence the clucking tongues. I often wonder what I would be if I didn't feel the need to keep myself behind a mask.
    Thank you for this poem. It truly speaks to me.
    Thank you for visiting Poetry of the Netherworld, and for your kind comment on my memorial poem for my father.

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    1. Some masks are necessary for the protection of the one under them and the ones who gaze upon it. I just hope for less need for them... for there are masks that rob people of their selves.

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  8. This is a lovely poem. May I ask, is the deathmask thing a particular tradition that I don't know about? Or is it just about a kid who isn't afraid of anything?

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    1. There is a tradition of death masks that has little to do with the kind of mask shown in Kahlo's work. Not so long ago, for instance, people used to make a cast of a person's face during the time of death. These would be kept by family members, and if the people were famous, they could even be used for reenactments.

      This mask would relate more to the kind of mask used by some cultures to celebrate the Day of the Dead and Halloween.

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  9. You already had me at: "Of Girls and Death Masks"

    Then what followed... Exquisite!

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    1. What's not to love? *hehehe*

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  10. Death masks are both beautiful and frightening to me. So was this poem. Lovely job!

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    1. It sounds a lot like life, huh?

      Thanks a bunch. ;-)

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  11. Such a feeling of Pride, swelling in my heart from these words....the passing on of wisdom beautifully put <3 XXX

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    1. *hugs her Gina tightly and thanks her for the love, the friendship and the wisdom*

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  12. I don't know why people have to use titles like "freak", "Weird", "Fat"! Does it make them feel like they have power over you!
    Your words touched my soul my friend ;o)
    (I'm trying to catch up in blog land! You all mean so much to me! Love you!)

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    1. Maybe it makes them feel less terrible about themselves. Only someone who has some really nasty issues can be that callous; that's what I think. The best thing we can do is deny them the power they seek. And probably moon them. ;-D

      You are loved, my dear friend!

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