Kathleen M. Heideman

Broken Bone Choker
        The steel handrail literally skewered (Frida’s) body at the level
        of the abdomen; entering on the left side, it had come out through
        the vagina.  I lost my virginity, she said.

I wear my self-portraits like a dress of thorns.
I am Frida of the severe, pained features,
a cactus who dreams of mending.  Through the flesh of leaves,
the desert sky is blue, a dark and cooling hole above my temple;
little hairs flow along my cheek into a trembling stream,
toward dark-seeing pools.  Pain loves the water of irises,
grows personal as a plaster cast painted with flowering vines
and arteries in the script of my own name.

Within the cave of my hair, roots knot themselves
into a marriage of green vines, and Fulang Chang,
my little monkey, my hairy child,
loops his little paw around the shattered column
of my neck.  I am as broken as this bone necklace,
but still I am alive; I feel my heartbeat, the rhythm of before
and after, two exposed bone-ends rubbing
against my throat.  A single artery, red as plastic,

snakes through my bone choker, the way blood
paints the milk when a cow injures her udder.
My belly wound leaks; my womb is useless;
my monkey is leashed to me with an intravenous tube.
Behind us, the hairy leaves move closer.  Their veins
merge with my own until I am the thorned queen of
greens and veins; I reign above my own survival.
I am Frida of the cactus,

a female hairiness that keeps the desert pregnant
with water.  I am Frida of pain, and pain is my infant, furry
and new, mewling beneath my breasts all night--
pain is teething on me, but notice
how the hairs above my lip do not tremble?
I am Frida, I sing of spines and miracles,
I sing of sweet, bloody fruit and a certain pulp
which keeps the injured ones alive, until the rescue.

Copyright 1998, Kathleen M. Heideman
Kathleen M. Heideman's poetry has appeared in 100 Words, American Book Review, Exquisite Corpse, Sun Dog and Wolf Head Quarterly.  She is the winner of several poetry prizes and awards, and her chapbook, Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare, was published by Traffic Street Press.  A computer learning specialist at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she also teaches on-line poetry through www.loft.org.

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