John Wheway

Wigtown Poetry Prize Winner

30 September 2023

My Mother Unwraps My Gift of Frida Kahlo’s Me and My Parrots

I’m scared the artist’s monobrow will prompt
her raucous laughter, or sexist jibes, insisting
Frida has a moustache, was really a man –
a woman making art is getting above herself.

But no, she props the picture on her knees.
From her shoulder, Georgie peers with her, ululates
his bruise-black tiny tongue – silently, like grieving
in a silent movie. She must have gone through a lot, says my mother,

Those parrots, they love her. But why did she want four of them?
Couldn’t she have children? I nearly died when I had you.
Drowning in blood. You looked like you’d come
through an accident. One’s more than enough.

So then I tell her about the tram crash
when Frida was 18, her pelvis pierced by a steel
handrail, her wounded friends extracting it,
so she could live to paint, and be worshipped by parrots.