2 poems by Martha Silano – The Feminist Wire

2 poems by Martha Silano

Ode to Frida Kahlo’s Eyebrows


Cult of the brow ascending like a condor,

of refusal to bow to the whimsy of busy tweezers.

From follicle to follicle, freedom unfurls.

Brow most buxom. Ferret brow.

Brow channeling Hieronymus Boschian shenanigans.

Brow championing Duchampian high jinx.

Brow side-skirting ye olde pot o wax.

Brow hobnobbing with Salvadori Dali’s mustache.

Mink stole brow; brow I-stole-it-from-a-rodent.

Brow suggesting a profuse, gargantuan beard.

Circus-circuit brow.

Brow that never shook hands with laser.

Most inexplicable brow, most unpixelated.

Bad luck black kitten brow on the prowl.

Mercury in retrograde brow.

Brow undaunted by a John Deere tractor.

Brow the embodiment of national glory.

Brow the mystic mestiza, but brow also

weeping with dislodged fetus, with loss and forlornness.

Brow a come-hither furry viper.

Brow the little known Black Shag Slug.

Brow the unretractable bewhiskered tongue.

Brow the fleecy fluke, tufted cobra, downy leech.

Brow the dark secret of the fastidiously plucked,

that perpetual raised-brow surprise.

Brow surprising, but unsurprised.

Brow the prismatic lion in the wardrobe when you were expecting beige scarves.

Brow adding a bristly flourish to bright Tehuana dress.

Sing holy praises to the insistence of the brow.

Sit down and write a letter to the core beliefs of the brow.

Knit a sweater to the milagro-like votivity of the brow.

Conjure new words to praise the liftingness of brow.

Flamenco to the mural-worthiness of the brow.

Praise god for the untamability of the brow.

Brow most steadfast. Brow on endless loop,

brow most perennial, most acanthus.

Brow aching yet soaring like an unruffled raven.

Unamputated brow.

Brow never renouncing its femininity.

Feminine brow donning its midnight suit.

Brow the corpse that proves the path to the next.

Brow never resting in peace.

Long live the flourish of the stalwart, seaward sooty gull in every self-portrait.

Long live the childlike exuberance of the feisty, the feral. Long live the monkeys

and parrots, perched beside the unwieldy, the emblematic.

Long live those wooly-bear wonders worthy of worship,

like two black wings—signature smudges left by the pig

twirling on a spit todos los dias, todas las noches.


Previously published in North American Review and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books 2014).


La Gioconda



I’m deaf, I’m in mourning; I’ve just had a 2nd child.

I’m toothless, palsied, pregnant, paralyzed.


Clearly, I’m a reflection of the painter’s neuroses;

clearly, I have a toothache. Turn the canvas


sideways, at a 45-degree angle. Scan the dark swirls:

and you’ll see them, the buffalo and the lion. Twenty


animals in all, including a snake representing

envy, a leopard because its skin kills the wanting


of what we don’t have. I’m the Jolly Lady, wife

of Francesco del Giocondo; I’m Lisa (a real-life person);


I’m idealized, the artist’s mother, the Madonna (a mule

nestles between my breasts—have you spotted


the ape?) Superimposed on a Chinese landscape,

I’m the eternal female, queen of sepulchral secrets.


My half-smile is the smile of enlightenment,

and those glowing hands? So Buddha. In 1962,


posing with Jackie and JFK, I was valued at $720 million,

six times the price of a Pollock or de Kooning.


Some have said that in my placid eyes tiny letters

and numbers reveal I’m Gian Giamono Caprotti,


my painter’s apprentice, but don’t buy it.

Forget the theories relating to my lack


of eyebrows and lashes, lost not from plucking

but the ravages of restoration. Housed at Versailles,


entwined myself in the Sun King’s cucumber patch,

silently basked in Le Tuileries while Napoleon, quaffing


his coveted Chambertin, scuffed around in beat-up red slippers.

When WW2 broke out, they wrapped me in waterproof paper,


whisked me to a land of poppies and castles. Behind

two layers of bulletproof glass, I live on at the Louvre,


where each year seven million spend an average

of fifteen seconds discerning my ambiguous mood. I’m


unfinished; I’ve been stuffed beneath a trench coat, smuggled

back to Florence. Doused with acid, stoned, pummeled


with a teacup. Touched-up, varnished, de-varnished, infested

with insects; fumigated. I’m a miasma of optical illusions;


my paint is cracking. My visage excites the random noise

in your visual system; emotion recognition software reveals


I’m 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, two pinches angry,

a smidgen neutral. You love me like you love your sphinx,


your flying saucers, your Area 51; I’m your koan,

your inscrutable floozy, your syphilitic conundrum,


your angelic aspara, your enduring durga. You’re here

because I render you agog, aha-less, uncomfortably mum.



Previously published in Rattle and Reckless Lovely (Saturnalia Books 2014).



Martha_Silano-Silano_Author_Photo--Photo_Credit_Langdon_CookMartha Silano is the author of four books of poetry, including The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception and Reckless Lovely (both from Saturnalia Books). She also co-edited, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press 2013). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, Kenyon Review Online, Crazyhorse, American Poetry Review, Orion, and The Best American Poetry 2009, among others. Martha edits Crab Creek Review and teaches at Bellevue College.

Photo credit: Langdon Cook