the broadside series


Blue Fifth Review
Volume IX. Issue 4
August 2009

Robert E. Wood
( Atlanta, Georgia )

poem suite & comment

Blue Mexico

Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky
Frida Kahlo 1937

A portrait for his birthday:
she stands between white curtains,
none of her agony onstage.
Her hair is braided, she is Mexico,
shawl and long dress, bouquet,
a flower in her hair.
In her hand a note:
Para Leon Trotsky
con todo mi amor.
Too soon he is el Viejo,
an old annoyance.
When he leaves the blue house
he leaves behind
her picture, her contempt.


Coyoacán 1940

He never babbled of green fields.
Atheist unbowed, he placed his faith 
in future generations, but when Natasha
opened the window to the courtyard—
grass green beneath the wall,
blue sky above and sunlight—
life was beautiful.  The ice ax
waited for another day: Trotsky reading,
the blow botched but fatal.

Self-Portrait with Stalin
Frida Kahlo 1954

In the end, apostasy.
Pain betrays the hand,
precision gone.  Still it is Frida,
cruder now, a Stalin portrait
hung behind her, el Viejo
more than mocked.
Her dress is red.
There are no flowers.
Her strange saint
peers from his picture
with cold black eyes.


Links to paintings by Frida Kahlo:
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky (1937)

Self-Portrait with Stalin (1954)

Wood comments on his suite of poems:

This series of poems began when I encountered Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait Dedicated to Leon Trotsky” in the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. I was intrigued by the connection of these tragic figures, but on the examination of their story, taken aback to learn that their affection was short-lived. For a short time Trotsky stayed at Kahlo’s “Blue House” and they seem to have engaged in a brief affair. After the dissolution of their relationship, Trotsky, like Kahlo, continued to live in Coyoacán, a town subsequently assimilated by an expanding Mexico City. It was there that Trotsky was assassinated. Late in life, much declined in health, Kahlo paid homage to Stalin in another self-portrait, as complete a repudiation of Trotsky as might be imagined.

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