A Drop Like Wet Shellac
– Poetry by Susan Zenker –
Shrine to Frida Kahlo
To your villa they come–
the sketchbooks, the cameras,
parade past your clay mugs and plates,
black lace mantillas that covered your legs,
white wooden bed where you slept,
naked art pressed to your breasts.
When the trolley shattered your hips,
dragged your straw-doll body across tracks,
you lay alone in his bed.
Against the grain of white headboard, you sketched
blue doves with gold open beaks, gold-scalloped wings
that cluttered the doorways–wishes
through which early evenings Diego slipped
out to markets, cantinas, and trysts.
Your brushes were nipples,
his face ingrained on your palette
in every cracked mirror
in seeds of papaya and melon
in monkeys perched on your shoulders
in red ribbons tying your legs to his bed.
Reflections on Carlsbad Caverns
Before the time when Patience had a name
when fingers of the wind sought company,
a single drip burst through the hardened clay,
and drip by drip in puddles trickled deep
from snow which melted in the mountain pass,
diluted down a crag like melted wax.
The gnat the bird the butterfly all laid
their eggs on cactus roots and spun their nests
while through the layered limestone droplets splashed:
rains molding bedrock into living caves.
In drip by drip and crack by crack it fell–
this voice of time a drop like wet shellac.
Then came the men who’d link the railroad tracks,
who from the breathing rock chipped metal veins.
They slid into the caves, ropes strapped with lamps,
to chisel mica flecks and bat remains.
They cracked the earth and seeped into its flesh
fell victim to the drip of steadfastness.
Those mines now rot; wet sculptor of the gorge
still etches temples along the canyon path,
cascades its ice down trails with chiseled order,
its drip and glitter, constant–dwarf a man.
Vague tracks a pack rat’s patter left behind,
reminders: none defy the craft of time.
Cross-legged on a splintered dock
we sipped lemonade, swatted mosquitoes
waited for the pot roast
to bake in its juices.
Across the canal two women eased into afternoon–
sneaked a stroller through a stranger’s gate,
their toddler bobbing and giggling
as wheels bounced her over clumps of grass.
And the women plucked mango after mango
loading up a pillowcase
while twilight touched the toddler’s head,
her ringlets framing cheeks of talcum.
And the baby reached for snapping branches–
her porcelain fingers grabbing for mangos,
curiosity stuffed like fibered flesh
into the linen sack.
That night the sun set in rippled fire,
the mosquitoes buzzed thicker
than we could ever remember,
and an innocence
was a pot roast burned to a crisp
in an oven pan.
About the Author – Susan Zenker
Susan Zenker is a full-time writer who lives in El Paso, Texas. She has lived in New England, Mexico City, and Miami. Her poems have appeared in various literary journals in the US such as Mezcla, The Rio Grande Review, Newspaper Tree, Best Poem: A Poetry Journal, The South Boston Literary Gazette, Latino Stuff Review, The South Carolina Review, and others. Two of her plays were presented in public readings at theaters in El Paso. She has participated in poetry readings at the University of Miami as well as at El Paso Community College and at El Paso Public Library. She has been a member of El Paso’s writing workshop Tumblewords Project and SCBWI.
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