Cheryl A. Rice


Frida, I come to you late in the day,
as we have arranged.
I am no match for the bold bird of
your eyebrows, lifting off
from your sad face.
You lead me slowly through
the jagged terrain of your body,
behind the plaster corset that you
have painted in carnival designs.
Your feet, your teeth expendable,
you rest your cigarette
on the edge of your pallete.

For an afternoon I have your attention.
Your sex split twice as deep as other women,
cannot be filled by just one lover, but I try.
I rummage through layers of skirts,
you Mexican showgirl, to get
to the hot stones between your legs
that no man, no woman can truly quench.

Frida, I sever the necklace of rocks
with my teeth, clear a path
for tender kisses, bring down
the hard braids you wind
tightly around your neat skull.
They do not suit me; I have tried.
I kiss your tiny moustache,
your red fingernails one by one
on the hands that make such terrible portraits,
that tend your monkeys, your baby deer also.

Later, I try on your shawls,
your golden earrings spattered with blood.
I corset myself for love, the cause just.
You twist my hair with colored yarn
like the Mexican peasants you imitate,
and you make it work.
You crown me with roses from your blue garden.
I am queen for an afternoon.
We toast the day with cognac.
Diego peeks in on his way out.

I don’t want it to end,
but you are tired, you must paint.
The parting is joyful,
and I hope never to return.


Prayer Flags

raking the yard, bagging last Autumn’s refuse
before early spring snow
saturates the piles–

shreds of twisted cloth,
white here in the bushes,
red in a crack in the stone wall,
blue buried under mulch–

Xmas morning, my smoky lover,
brings in a string stretched, loose threads,
remains of prayer flags yanked off the porch,
thumbtacks intact, no snow
to betray vandal footprints–

I do not believe in prayer,
requests or praise aimed up, away
to some divine parent who
may or may not be home,
will do as they please in any case,
leave us to label it grace or miracle–

but I like the idea of prayer flags
shuddering in the breeze, visible
messenger of global good wishes
thread by thread,
marking mine a tooth fairy-free home–

colored scraps now, months after the act,
hurried to bring their tidings, enabled
by rough, angry hands–

or was it fear my prayers were to be
answered, theirs tossed in neglected heaps,
mementos of spring, crumbling
in winter heat?


Cheryl A. Rice, born and raised on Long Island in the 1960’s, has now spent more than half her life in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Baltimore Review and Chronogram, among others. She is the founder and MC of the now-defunct Sylvia Plath Bake-Off. Her poetry blog is at:

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