On removing a postcard of Frida Kahlo from her wall, Rachel Ashenden began to reflect on past loves, the feelings postcards evoke and the liberation one can feel, even in lockdown, towards old relationships.
I have a framed postcard of Frida Kahlo hanging on my wall. The postcard was purchased by an ex-lover from Brooklyn Museum’s gift shop, for the exhibition Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, and sent from New York to reach me in Edinburgh. The exhibition displayed Frida’s private possessions and clothing for public view for the first time since her death. The exhibits, “awash with colour” (this postcard reads) had experienced their own kind of lockdown, hidden away for half a century after her death. I do some digging (a Google search). Did you know that it was Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera, who ordered that her private possessions be locked away? Was he scared that her oeuvre may overshadow his?
It is time to take the postcard of Frida down.
A series of postcards from said ex-lover are bundled together in a drawer that I never touch. In isolation, these postcards are harmless and whimsical; kind fragments in which another person thought of you. Bundled together, they are a puzzle-like insight into a relationship.
I’m frightened by postcards. I’m frightened by the recipient’s restricted power in the postcard protocol. Postcards are one-sided. As the sender travels without a permanent address, I am stationary, a vessel eagerly awaiting correspondence, never able to write in response. I am happier now not listening out for the morning flap of the letterbox, its steel ache, running to the door to find (or not find) a postcard-sized portion of hope scattered on the floor. Postcards are sardonic; they wish you were there, but not enough to stretch to an invite. Postcards love the idea of love, but if you really loved me, you’d write a letter.
During my lockdown, my mind wonders to your respective lockdown, and thank God that I’m not anywhere near yours. If I could, I’d send a postcard to a woman who may be sharing the lockdown with you, and it’d read: “wish you weren’t there”. During my lockdown, I feel strangely liberated by the impossibly slim chance that I might run into you. Edinburgh’s streets are mine again.
I remove the postcard from the frame, and turn it over. I contemplate who might have done this before the postcard even reached me. If I was a Postwoman, I’d be diligently voyeuristic, reading every single postcard I deliver, decoding the polite soliloquies for underlying tension. There’s little thrill in filling a postcard with menial updates about the weather.
I added the postcard of Frida to the bundle, and toy with the catharsis of setting it all on fire. Instead, I decide to chop these postcards up, and like a Dada poem, reassemble the fragments, to devise a new, clearer reality. It reads:
“I’d like to take you here one day,
A strong south westerly wind has put an end
I hope that you get a glimpse one day
There has been a storm
You’d be welcome to visit
combined with the 30 degree heat, you could be fooled into thinking
It’s best that you’re not here.”
About Rachel Ashenden
Rachel is co-founder and editor of The Debutante, an interdisciplinary journal which explores the affinities, and tensions, of feminism and surrealism. She is driven to uncover the lesser-known works and lives of marginal surrealists. In 2018, she completed her Masters at Glasgow University in ‘Modernities’, and currently leads Communications for a charity in Scotland. Find Rachel on Twitter: @RachelAshenden, or email Rachel to collaborate: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This piece was commissioned for Postcards in Isolation
In times of loss and separation, art can be a source of inspiration, solace and connection. In her self-conceived series, Postcards in Isolation, writer and editor Rochelle Roberts has turned to the art on her bedroom wall to reflect on the difficulties quarantine and social distancing presents. Looking at artists as disparate as Claude Cahun, Dorothy Cross, Eileen Agar and Dorothea Tanning, Roberts has explored the sadness, uncertainty and joy of life in lockdown, and demonstrated how art can help us grapple with such feelings. As a guest editor for Lucy Writers, Roberts now wants to open the series up to other writers. Is there a postcard or a work of art that speaks to you at this time? If so, send your submissions to Rochelle via email@example.com and see here for more information.