Palimpsest/ Basquiat, Kahlo




Sometimes your head is full
of wings. Sometimes tender monkeys
hover in the foliage. Plush safe
you think but the world can be brutal.
Both Kahlo and Basquiat spent months
in bed after collisions.  His mother
brought him Grey’s Anatomy. Her mother
made a special easel. Soon he was an x-ray.
He could render the brain’s wiring
or how teeth clatter in a jawbone.
Meanwhile, for Kahlo, each moment
a retablo, gilded by pain.
Have you ever sat in a crowd and stopped
listening to the self-important speaker?
Suddenly it sweeps over you, the strangeness
of hair. Almost every skull grown over
and gardened into curls, slicks, soap-stiff
tufts. We are such tender monkeys.
Another way to read each other’s hieroglyphs,
I guess. I see you as a crescent moon. You see me
as a wooden board painted over and over
with a series of bleeding saints. In one sense,
overexposed. In another, like trying to trace
the veins on a leaf as dusk gets bluer and bluer.


Authors of the article

Carolyn Capps teaches drawing at the University of Virginia and has recently exhibited work at the Chroma Gallery and The Bridge in Charlottesville, Virginia. She grew up in Black Mountain, North Carolina and earned her MFA from the University of Georgia. “We Are Not Our Work” is her first digital collection.

Lesley Wheeler’s poetry collections are The Receptionist and Other Tales; Heterotopia, winner of the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize; and Heathen. Her poems and essays recently appeared or are forthcoming in Subtropics, Gettysburg Review, Rattle, and Poetry, and she blogs about poetry at Wheeler is the Henry S. Fox Professor of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.