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Viewing Frida Kahlo’s ‘The Suicide of Dorothy Hale’

Virginia Chase Sutton

I stand before the painting a decade and a half
before I am transformed. Oil on wood panel
lush in detail—blood curdling into script, black velvet gown,

hair dressed like glory. The enormous corsage of pale yellow roses,
stunning little faces petaling like seashells, still as perfect
as before the leap. The woman heaves the window open, 

silk stockings slippery on the sill, snap of a cold wind,
shuddering headfirst. She is a dark amoeba smear
against the chalky skyscraper. I know how to hoist a window

and let in a little air. Her arms pose like a dancer
above her head and body, deep into the gray blue clouds,
dear friends, swaddling her in vapor. And lurking

in a corner, a half-remembered angel hovers, nearly invisible,
the artist forced to expel heaven. I kick the furniture away,
spiteful old things, before I swirl on the sill. How long

does it take to fall—me, the woman—smothering clouds
dense as desire before the inevitable sidewalk splat,
open legged, gown like water dragging the body, 

skyscraper rising, final cock and guilty embrace
of suffering, a dainty blood puddle moments before clouds lift
and the sun charms it away? I hear of rotting corpses,

yellow vomit caking in faces gone featureless, gaping wounds
in head and breast, desperation after the train
roars through. Dispossession of rings and pearls,

my grandmother’s china, Royal Doulton’s  Canterbury pattern,
twined pulses of rust and green leaves, late fall’s
last writhing. Who to remember bits and pieces

I love? No one listens. Death is eerily internal
not merely the corpse someone stumbles over in the dark.
See it in oily black hair worn high, forever dressed

in 1938, strands shivering into place. It is today
at 6 a.m., one step out the window and gone.
Exquisite, the body’s last mad tumble. Tall buildings

frighten me but I wake so suddenly
I am already hurtling past bricks and mortar.
I smell the end, bites of blood and dirt. No matter

what I take to get me here, the instant
slap in the face of bliss, the unfolding so terrible
it covers the entire surface, even the painted frame.