Niña Con Mascara de Muerte

after the art of Frida Kahlo

by Ashlie Stevens

nina con

Niña con Mascara de Muerte by Frida Kahlo


For children in the border towns, the artifacts of violent death

bear the familiarity of playthings.

Gang members and drug runners,

pressed their whole lives between poverty and bloodshed,

are buried young by their mothers.

Rosaries wound tightly around their limp hands.

Jesus Christ tattooed across their knuckles.

Shot in a botched drop-off;

remembered like a saint.

Children line the streets with fat sugar skull faces

on chubby toddler bodies.

Burnt ochre carnations wilting warm in their sweaty palms.

A demon-faced deathmask nearby,

a subtle reminder of their fate.


Ashlie Stevens is a journalist and MFA student. Her journalistic work has been featured in The Atlantic’s CityLab, National Geographic, Slate, Salon and Hyperallergic. Her creative writing has been featured in The Ariel, Swan Children Magazine and Acquired Taste.