In 1937, the renegade Communist Leon Trotsky (real name: Lev Bronstein) came to Mexico with his family and took up residence with the painter Diego Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo. An affair developed between Trotsky and Kahlo, and Rivera demanded that Trotsky leave. Soon afterwards in his new residence in Mexico, Trotsky was assassinated by an agent of Stalin.

Leon Trotsky fled to Mexico
Because he had no other place to go.
The muralist Rivera gave him shelter
Forgetting that the baser passions swelter
Even in icons of the Classless State.
Trotsky got hard for Diego’s mate,
A crippled girl named Frida, whose dark urges
Made her subject to erotic surges.
Trotsky, who was known to have a knack
With ladies, soon had Frida on her back.
Diego loved the Revolution’s leader,
But drew the line at Trotsky screwing Frida.
He gave the Bronsteins notice to depart
And so they did, to make another start.
Meanwhile, Stalin issued secret orders—
An agent was dispatched across three borders
To find poor Trotsky and to take him out
(Back then Stalin had a lot of clout).
Upon arrival, this fell man inquired
Just where Trotsky lived. What then transpired
Is too well known to tell again in rhymes:
Trotsky paid for all his horrid crimes.
The agent managed to pull off a nice trick
Involving Trotsky’s skull and a sharp ice-pick.
Diego’s outraged honor was appeased.
And Stalin? Well, let’s just say he was pleased.
Now some will argue there is no connection—
There really isn’t very much protection
When you’re the target of a tyrant’s wrath.
But humping Frida sure helped smooth the path.
If Trotsky hadn’t felt up Frida’s bottom,
Maybe Stalin never would have got him.
He might have lived a few more years to write
And bring more inconvenient facts to light.
That’s the tale, and herein lies a lesson:
When you are a house guest, don’t start messin’
With your host’s wife. That is not well-bred—
Something may be poised above your head,
And it’s not wise to lust for carnal juncture
If it leads to deep cerebral puncture.



Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide.  He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.

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16 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Very very dry, and very very funny; my favourite rhyme being bottom/got him. The poem is important too because it exposes in the case of one man, Trotsky, this more general tendency to idolise vicious and deceitful men (and to a lesser extent women) because they do/achieve so much for the party/cause/mission. Indeed, Joseph Salemi’s satires are equally trenchant against the plutocrats of America. Apparent ‘success’, it seems, is beyond reproach – at least until the bubble bursts, and then all the nauseating inhumanity leaks out. Satire is the corrective and no-one I can think of currently does it as well as Joseph Salemi.

  2. Sally Cook


    I really enjoyed your satire. I’ve heard this tale before, but never in verse.
    Frida was Rivera’s student – the kind that turns out to be better than the teacher. What revenge could Diego take? He married her, then promptly took up with her sister. After that it was a constant game of tit for tat, if you’ll excuse the expression.
    Feted by the Museum of Modern Art, Freda was given a show, and her bed was set up in the center of the room so she could greet viewers lying down; another nice touch..

    I guess Professor Rivera must have been a communist; otherwise, why bring Trotsky home to stay? Even he must have realized how dangerous Russian politics was at that time. I would think The Riveras came pretty close to being assassinated themselves.

    As for Frida, while she appeared to be madly in love with Rivera, taking him back after each of his escapades; the one with her sister, going off and on for years, must have been particularly hurtful. The shagging of one of his political heroes probably seemed, again, another tit for tat.

    She did make some good paintings, mostly self portraits, whereas Diego was of the crude, plodding, Russian peasant school of political art – you know, large women with lots of muscles riding tractors.

    Forget the more delicate Fabergé eggs. Communism apparently has a deleterious effect on aesthetics. If there are any aesthetic Democrats remaining, I urge them to take note.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear Sally —

      Yes, both Diego and Frida were committed hard-core Communists, and never deviated from that sick loyalty. There was a famous controversy in the 1930s, when Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural at Rockefeller center here in New York. He wanted to include a portrait of the glorified Lenin, and the Rockefellers refused to have it. Frida’s paintings often included phrases extolling Stalin.


    Hilarious, Joe!
    I, too, loved bottom / got him (which I used myself, to much less effect, in a poem earlier this year). I also loved ice-pick / nice trick, which reminded me of Lorenz Hart’s Dietrich / sweet trick (“The most beautiful girl in the world”).

  4. C.B. Anderson

    I watched the film, and I still can’t believe that intelligent persons can be so stupid.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I work in a purportedly intelligent place, academia. You can’t believe how profoundly stupid most of my colleagues are, and not just on the subject of politics.

      Right now, most of them are in ecstatic emotional frenzies over a maladjusted autistic child with the face of a Calvinist fanatic on one of his less pleasant days.

      • C.B. Anderson


        I think I know of that young person to whom you refer. Didn’t she just address the United Nations or some other congregation of blathering idiots? Let’s pull out of that dismal swamp before we catch the disease.

      • Gregory Spicer

        Examine your own hideous face, monsieur, before you criticize another one.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        It looks like Greg Spicer has a hard-on for little Greta, just like Trotsky had for Frida.

      • Gregory Spicer

        And now we all know what’s really on the doctor’s mind.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        No, Greg — actually, we know what’s on YOUR mind. If you really have a thing for that tedious little Swedish meatball, you must definitely be in trouble.

  5. Sally

    Joe, you aren’t by any chance referring to the little Scandinavian snot who is making a grand tour excoriating normal people for driving cars and using plastic straws, are you? Reminds me of the medieval children’s crusades. I suppose parents then told their kids that if they didn’t behave, they would be sent on a crusade.

    When I lived in New York, the Rivera portrait was still on the wall at the New School, but covered by a canvas drape. It was an object of curiosity among young artist, and I remember going with others to see if we could peek behind the drape. I must say it was considered more of a curiosity than anything else, and remember thinking what a lot of fuss about such a flat, drab painting? Don’t recall ever seeing Communist comments in Frida’s paintings, but of course I have not seen that many.

    Things don’t change much, do they/ Or at least they change very slowly. I think we are caught in the low tide, though we may be seeing the beginnings of a swell of good sense, thanks to Donald. How wonderful to be able to have a president one can admire.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear Kip —

      Yes, she’s the one. She has the scariest face since Bela Lugosi. As for the UN, I agree — we should have exited that swamp years ago. It was the brainchild of Alger Hiss, a Communist traitor.

      Dear Sally —

      You could answer this better than I. It seems to me that most fresco paintings have a washed-out, drab look, which I attribute to the fact that they are watercolor on wet plaster. Didn’t Da Vinci try to solve the technical problem by using oil paints on fresco when he did The Last Supper?

      • Sally Cook

        Dear Joe –
        There is a rule for paint usually described as “thick over thin”: you can keep putting thin over thin (water based paint over fresh plaster) so long as you like, but it will always seem more or less flat. This had a good result in the early Renaissance, in that most of those artists worked with very deep, rich color. Of course Rivera was such an egotist he abandoned color.
        Leonardo’s attempt to use oil on plaster probably worked with greater verve than those earlier artists, but must have taken ages to dry properly.

        In the 1940s, the era of Rivera and Frida Kahlo, material was not easy to come by, but still, that was no excuse. It was also the time when Communism was rising. I once saw an exhibit of so-called “Russian Art” at the Albright-Knox; it was the most godawful mess of inferior drawing and narrow ideas I think I’ve ever seen, but in addition to lack of drawing and concept, the color was flat, dull and without any distinguishing color theme. I envision those “artists” having each been handed one tube of blue, ochre and brown, and the results having been chosen by committee to send to an American museum. Sad how this wall decoration mimicked what was being written; especially when you think of the scope of some of the pre-revolutionary Russian writers such as Chekov and his contemporaries. All the creative spirit of the individual had been trivialized and dulled; politicized beyond measure.

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