Sunday, July 6, 2014

Bernadette McBride Feasts with Frida Kahlo and J. S. Sargent

Bernadette McBride’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies nationally, in the UK, and on Garrison Keillor’s NPR program “The Writer’s Almanac.” A former Poet Laureate of Bucks County, PA, she is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, won second-place in the international Ray Bradbury Writing Award, and was twice a finalist for the Robert Fraser Poetry Award. She is the author of Waiting for the Light to Change (WordTech Editions, 2013) and Food, Wine, and Other Essential Considerations—an Alphabet, forthcoming in September 2014 from Aldrich Press. Visit her blog at

Fruits of the Earth
—Frida Kahlo, 1938

So much raw flesh here, Frida—
how very like you: the prickly pear
a bald head, day-old shave poking
from green skin; one corn cob stripped
of husk, scraped of kernel, its two kin
huddled, waiting. Others gaping
as though scalpeled open and left
to ooze away. The plate is crowded
with bodies who’ve lived their solo
lives, are now arranged, naked,
bulging before a gloomy sky,
the plank table’s eyes staring.

Oyster Gatherers of Cancale
—John Singer Sargent, 1878

Clacking across broken shells, squishing
over the sand, baskets on their hips, bonnets
catching the glint of the day, they
bring the children, these women, teach them

the secrets of the Cancalaises—what to spy
of the sea’s leavings, to gather or give back.
Three generations here bearing custom’s
millennial weight as they cluster between blue

and more blue, ocean’s foam lingering on the shore,
vestige of the channel’s marriage to the Atlantic
—where their men have sailed, crossing
themselves as they head north in search of

a winter’s bounty. For now, the women will relish
the salty softness between the clunkity shells
—grateful to the prevenient mothers who
taught their young to carry baskets to the sea.