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  November 2016
volume 13 number 2
  home   (archived)
Toti O'Brien
Marching On
Angel Uriel Perales
A Former Young Poet, now Old, Reacts to Rilke, Years too Late
Marie C Lecrivain
Jon Cunningham's Life on the Periphery
Jack G. Bowman
Rick Lupert's Death of a Mauve Bat
Angel Uriel Perales
Review of James Benger's As I Watch You Fade
Annette Sugden
Wanda VanHoy Smith's Boat of Dreams
  a personal history of rock 'n' roll
G. Murray Thomas
  mailing list
Toti O'Brien November 2016


Marching On

    On July 2nd, nineteen hundred fifty four, Frida Kahlo joined a political demonstration. People gathered to protest CIA intervention in South of America, to endorse the recent and fragile Guatemalan revolution, to dissuade a US-led coup d'etat, meant "as always" to restore a conservative status quo.
    Frida marched to champion the ideals she lived by.
    Only her bust appears in the black and white picture. I have imagined her on a wheelchair, Diego pushing. But the frame, incomplete, gives no evidence of her actual posture. Diego's hand rests on top of her shoulder. Rather weighs in there, as if "truly", he was supporting himself. He looks thin and old. He stares down, stares nowhere. His face empty, defeated, undone.
    While Frida looks up. Eyes wide open and as gorgeous as ever. A white scarf is knotted under her chin. Unusual, I can't help wondering why. Was she sick, afraid of catching a cold? Not in Mexico in July. Was her luscious black hair undone? The thin slice peering out is properly parted in the middle. Was it thinning out? Had she forgotten her earrings? She had been ill, bedridden, on morphine, for the last two years.
    She looks up, though. A chain hangs at her neck, with a pendant. Like a knotted rope, like a cord. Her sleeves are hemmed with lace. She has bracelets at both wrists, both hands are beringed.
   Her right hand makes a fist, her left holds a sign bigger than she is. Did she paint it? I believe it. It looks so much like her. A cute dove, naive, tender, with a huge round dark eye-holds a sign on her turn, in her beak. "Por la paz," for peace, in a flowery, curled handwriting.
    "Por la paz". I have kept this pic in a folder for decades. It is always in my mind. I have wondered how Frida could summon the strength to hold the oversized banner so high. Today I finally saw another hand, helping out from behind. Solidarity.
    There's no smile on her face. Her expression is complex and baffling. Many things have been read in it. Pain and sadness. The forecast of her imminent death. Hard to say. She's erect and looking ahead, with eyes that have seen it all. She has seen it all, but hasn't quit yet.
    'And those rings spiking her knuckles, Those rings scratch one last time at the empty air, tickling history's impassibility. Carving out a signature, a memento, a scream.

copyright 2016 Toti O'Brien


Toti O'Brien

author's bio

    Toti O'Brien is the Italian Accordionist with the Irish Last Name. She was born in Rome then moved to Los Angeles, where she makes a living as a self-employed artist, performing musician and professional dancer. Her work has most recently appeared in The Capra Review, The Write Place at The Write Time, Hamline Lit Link, and Bindweed Magazine. More about her can be found at
Toti O'Brien