creative graffiti wall with portrait of frida kahlo


That painting of a woman on Polk, Frieda Kahlo style head with flowers, a Virgin Mary vibe via some hot dusty shrine somewhere south of here, the one that the man was shouting at saying that he ‘thought she loved him’ and was battering and smashing the electrical box it was painted on, making me and the Boy take another route about two months ago, has been mostly incinerated. Her little post on Polk has been set aflame, and put out. Perhaps her obsessed rejected suitor decided to burn her, destroy her. If he couldn’t have her, nobody could. If he couldn’t have her, she would be much better off dead: that is the thinking these men embrace. This is the destructive love. The grasping possession. The all consuming flame of a love gone wrong. Of a love surrounded by police tape and burnt to a crisp, all but her little face, gone; and her there, smudged, singed, hair sizzled, flowers mostly burnt away, the entire box a melted, charred lump of destroyed metal and plastic and paper. Yet her face shone out unburnt. Almost miraculous. A little spooky. A little wrong. A little sad.

Twisted and melted, charcoaled and dismantled: there are things which remain, which survive the heat and flame. There are things which fight for survival and win against all the odds. There are little victories amidst the sadness and fury of larger losses. There are survivors which sometimes wonder if surviving was worth all the fighting, so much is gone. There are losers who must surely look at the desolated remains of their wars and wish they had never fought at all. There are winners who find victory hollow. There are those still in the game, in the fight, in the middle of a maelstrom of immense proportions, wars that in their own way are nuclear hot, bright white light razing to the ground of all that was, and must surely look at those who fought and won, or fought and lost and wished they were free from the struggle of survival. Sometimes even losing looks better than fighting on.

I was left feeling faintly ridiculous in my sorrow for the defiant faced woman in the drawing on the burnt out electrical box, with her thick eyebrows, her camellia smile and her severe yet demure mouth. I considered stopping to take a photograph, but decided whatever bad juju it was I wanted no part of it, nor did I wish to record her survival or her battle; not her humiliation of her burnt away hair, not her lost dress of thick calico patterns, nor the destruction of the bright green parrot that flew about her shoulder like a representation of a soul unbound. Instead I clenched my fist, and kissed the air under my mask, and looked over my shoulder feeling dragged back towards her promise of survival, albeit a scorched one, a scarred one. A flawed one: back broken, feminine glory denuded of beauty, a mouth that shows no hint of the betrayal, no shadow of doubt or disappointment, an arrow in the side, a knife in the back. A hand on the paintbrush, and a monkey on our backs. I know those eyes, I know those eyes well. I know that look: it says “to hell with you all!” They are eyes that promise much – pleasure, pain, but under the surface they mean survival. They are the eyes of the warrior.

witch showing pentagram sign with candles

We all want to be peaceful. We all want to be happy. We all want to be loved. Not even the Lady on the electrical box, a dirtied virgin in flowers and poster paints, is allowed to be peaceful and happy. Even a painted lady has her nemesis. Even a picture box Frieda has her pain. If the Virgin decided to open her legs and let the army in she would have that same defiant look of self possession. Nobody can take away that spark. They can take away our arms, our fingers, our legs, our feet, our livers, our noses, our flowers. They can take away our feathers. They can take it all. Our youth. Our hope. Our devotion. Our love. But as long as we have our breath. As long as we have our lives. As long as we have our freedom to be as we will, we have ourselves, and no man can take that away. And where there is one, there are others. Kill one of us. Destroy one Frieda. One flawed Virgin. One black magic woman, and another is born to take her place and grows to fill her ugly orthopedic medical boots, her orange sneakers, or her six inch high spike heels with the pentagram charm dangling from the heel.

This is the way the world turns, I suppose. Perhaps a fire in an electrical box is just a fire; a man beating up the painting of a woman upon it and screaming of betrayal is just a crazy man having a meltdown. Perhaps the survival of the face of the knock off Frieda K was simply the laws of physics and a timely firefighter doing their job. Perhaps it is all something bigger, more meaningful, more valuable. After all that is the job of those of us who write, is it not? To see the light in the shadows, to tell the shining faces protected and unburnt from the electrical box fires. Is it not our job to point the finger at suffering and servitude, and injustice and stacked desks and name it: unfair? It is a bad bargain. It is hard time. It is a curse and a blessing to be both embraced and pushed away. Every one of those people walking past the police tape just walked by. No second glances. They didn’t see the writing on the wall. They don’t see the messages in the bird shit and the empty cartons. None of it is meaningful, none of it magical, none of it vital. I fear we are all heading for the wall at 500 miles per hour. I fear humanity is in need of a wake up call. I fear that some things just don’t break through into the mass consciousness, however hard they try.

The Earth is groaning, humanity suffering, and the gaps are widening, and the stressors are on. I could sing a song of ‘don’t give up’, but I am afraid today I am too tired to fight it all. My peace and safety is fragile: not that I am the only one living in a fragile world, a delicate easily broken peace. I am not. I know that. It is merely that I can only speak for myself. I am just one more daughter stepping into shoes too big for my feet, and trying to do my little part as a soldier and a guardian, as a protector and a force of creation. To not be a force of destruction is not particularly easy for me. I have a strong draw towards the darkness, after all there is strength in the dark. There is steel in the athame and the little incantations of ‘I am dead Imdeadimdead’ that kept me alive thus far. My own forever.

There is nothing I won’t do to protect those I love. Nothing. Perhaps that is what scared me in the little electrical box woman and the fire: I know I am not allowed to fall. I am not allowed to give up. I have to fight, even if I lose everything except that spark which I cannot destroy in myself.

Perhaps there is an equivalent for Valhalla for survivors of the Patriarchy, where our sons are all good, our cups are all full, and our friends are all living. Maybe mojitos spring eternal from crystal glass goblets, and the coconuts crack open giving up their sweet meat at our bidding. If there is a ‘heaven’, I don’t want to go there. There is a man in charge. Fuck him. I am made from no one’s rib.

I wish I could draw. I would put a new Girl up in town, snakes wrapped around her waist, and hair of flame. She’ll rip yer heart out, Jim.

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