RED DRESS

 

The color of the dress was Fire Engine Red,

the color associated with Valentine’s Day cards,

lacy white hearts pierced by Cupid’s arrows.

 

Giraffes pranced round the hem;

with nothing better to do

than my grandmother’s bidding: dancing in circles

 

like painted horses on a merry-go-round, the sort

you can just get on and ride forever – over the river

and through the woods to grandmother’s house

 

through the autumn leaves

piled high into racetracks in the backyard.

Who can run fastest, jump highest, come first?

 

The color of the dress was Devil’s Red,

the color associated with Satan,

fallen angel with a pitchfork for a tail.

 

Neither Satan nor Cupid practiced their piano,

but I did. Each morning mechanical fingers

gave voice to another prideful, grand-matriarchal gift.

 

The dress and the piano, how did I miss the clues?

Even Red Riding Hood knew wolves

wore her grandmother’s shoes.

 

What child is this, who fails to adore

the gold, frankincense, and myrrh laid at her feet?

Come on, kid, we all know this ain’t no one way street.

 

The giraffes had two rivals: prettier,

more lively, less sweet.  But at Sibley’s Department store

on that sweaty summer’s day, granny would have her way.

 

The color of the dress was Blood Red

the color associated with needles, transfusions,

debilitating intestinal bleeds.

 

Dancing in circles, those giraffes could never win

and neither could I, from that first day at school, a giraffe

appliquéd where my heart should have been.

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