Comfort from the birds
Frida Kahlo’s father was born in Germany. He lived, married, and photographed in Mexico. He gave Frida her surname as well as five parrots to keep her company. She painted herself with four of them.
Ja, Mädchen, my girl, I know. Come, venga,
a present for you.
Pain. Constant. Papá los sabe, he knows.
When I am in need, he is there for me. Even when Diego
doesn’t care too much.
Father is my healer. Qué hay, Papá, what do you have for me?
Warte, wait, Fridalein.
Five bunte parrots. Colourful.
All talk at the same time. A mix of German
and Spanish. They make me laugh.
Papá is a genius. How I love him.
Diego is sex, my father is love and my cushion
when the pain gets demasiado. Too much.
He calls me his little Frida.
When I hold a parrot, I feel his solid little body,
silky, warm, feather-covered, heart beating. Head to one side
he sees me. He says ‘Hola Frida’. He doesn’t
judge. Qué bellos son, how beautiful their colours.
One flies off, never comes back.
Parrot, I mourn your loss but envy
your freedom. Cuidate, mi amor.
Just in case another follows the call,
I paint mis amigos together with me.
Los loros que me dio mi Papi. The parrots
my father gave me to keep me sane.
Back again. Every time we touch down at Nice
I have to dig out my français, and I become a different person.
More je ne sais quoi, more Gallic perhaps?
I begin to move my hands when I speak, shrug my shoulders…
donc, c’est extraodinaire, n’est-ce pas? Strange, wouldn’t you say?
We commandeer a table for five in our favourite watering hole
in the old town of Antibes. We had planned for Biot, that extra-special
restaurant with its omelette aux truffes, the truffle omelette
to die for. But our friends could only make it to Antibes,
and so we meet again at Le Bouchon; the night is warm,
the noises gentle and very French, and the wafting garlic mixes with
the yasmin, oleander, and pines into something you never forget,
a smell unique to the Côte. It will accompany you
in less opulent days and remind you of those moments
when your evenings were full of laughter and long, and the bottles
of wine too small. Passe le pain, s’il te plaît.
Pass the bread, please.
‘Comandeering a table’ meant for the waiters to pull
three small tables together and arrange chairs around
the little eating island newly created with good will and in the name
of enjoyment. There were five of us.
Mark would soon move on to Thailand to join his
husband to be. They were going to open a fashion empire.
Jean was going to take over the branch in Miami (he sighed).
We teased him about leaving civilization behind.
Gina was about to retire. She wasn’t sure whether
she might not stay in France or simply travel the world.
We may never see Alison again. She had been diagnosed
with MS and wasn’t in a good place.
As I took another sip of my Côte Rôtie. I knew my life
had yet again arrived at a point of no return.
© Rose Mary Boehm
Rose Mary Boehm is a German-born British national living and writing in Lima, Peru. Her poetry has been published widely in mostly US poetry reviews (online and print). She was twice nominated for a Pushcart. Her fifth poetry collection, DO OCEANS HAVE UNDERWATER BORDERS, has just been snapped up by Kelsay Books for publication May/June 2022. https://www.rose-mary-boehm-poet.com/