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.