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SHE SAID: I Tell You It Doesn’t Hurt Me, 1991

Eight poems by Mary Julia Klimenko and eight hand-colored etchings by Manuel Neri. The book was completed in the winter of 1990-91 and published by Brighton Press, San Diego. Edition 33.

Introduction to SHE SAID: I Tell You It Doesn’t Hurt Me
Written by Mary Julia Klimenko, published by Brighton Press, San Diego, 1990

By 1976, I had been modeling for Manuel for several years. Late at night, in the studio under the glare of overhead lights, he sculpted, I posed, and in between poses, I wrote poetry and read poetry to Manuel. Nothing else existed in that still time. Together we made one strong heartbeat instead of the silly fluttering we had without each other. I used the persona of Frida Kahlo to write a series of letters to Diego Rivera in an attempt to use language to define the truth of my feelings for Manuel, even though he loved me in secret, and lied and turned away in public. I identified with Frida in that she painted herself alone, scrutinizing her love of Diego fearlessly. Her story was my story, any woman’s story, about love and how we interpret ourselves in relationship to the ones we love. I began the poems in April of 1976 and completed the last one in May of 1977. They were written in isolation and despair. For all of my great love, I remained powerless to bring it into the real world. As a woman, I understand that all too often we wait for permission when really none is needed. I called it love—he loved me and refused to call it anything—yet the art grew more powerful each year. Today, after almost twenty years of working with Manuel and writing poetry, I have given up the useless notion that he will hear me. He hears nothing but his own roar. His lies don’t hurt me anymore because I, too, have grown strong and turbulent—an undercurrent moving in its own sweet direction in spite of the mighty river’s roar. – Mary Julia Klimenko, 24 December 1990