Portrait of the Self Beside Itself

"The problem with life is that everyone who dies
really dies."        ~ Kathleen Graber

Every now and then you think you know
the answer. But then some version of that quiz
resurfaces: If you're going to be marooned
on an island, what one book would you 
want to have with you? If you could keep
only one of your senses before the world
ended, which would it be? The problem
with these zero-sum games is that most
always want more than one thing. Or 
you take the side of the mother who can't 
bear to have her baby sliced in half in front 
of the king. Never ask about a favorite
book or poet; or which of my children 
I like best or is the prettiest. In The Two
Fridas, Frida Kahlo has painted both 
hearts whole, laid across the bodice—
as if the artist ripped them out of each 
woman's breast. And each woman is different 
yet the same. The one on the left, 
with a pair of surgical scissors 
suturing a vein that drips on the skirt
of her white wedding gown, is the rejected 
one. On the right, hand on her lap holding 
a miniature of the beloved, is the self 
that was loved. Yet they clasp hands and sit
serenely on the same bench, not minding 
a sky bruised and boiling with clouds 
behind them. The same vein coils up 
the forearm of the loved one and over 
a chasm of shoulders to the abandoned other: 
red as embroidery floss, the kind 
one could use for mending socks or cross-
stitching rows of flowers on a hem.

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