a self in six colors
My mother says I was an easy birth, arriving as a red
faced infant with flailing fists, my first jewelry the orange
hospital bracelet marked with the family name. A yellow
knit cap for my tiny head, pale against the green
hospital sheets in faded photos. Destined not for blue,
I was the first girl in a generation, a princess in pink and purple.
As a child, I loved things soft - blankets, forts, a purple
stuffed dragon named Stormy. I, too, was soft, not seeing red
When my brother ripped Stormy’s legs off, instead in a teary blue
Mood for days. I cried, grief for a tale I had loved to tell, for the orange
flames that lit up my imagination, us flying together over the green
pastures of his storyland, their fields now withered and yellow.
I found solace in books, sturdy shelves full of yellow
pages and pristine new releases. I fell in love with the color purple,
devoured the stories of women who ate fried green
tomatoes (a food I only ever knew to be cold and red.)
I scrawled my child’s signature on the heavy cardstock of an orange
library card, then used it long enough to fade the ink a soft blue.
Books made me a student, too, analysis scribbled down in blue
exam books underneath the flickering fluorescent yellow
light of a classroom. I cherished the star shaped stickers, orange
adhesive bursts, a declaration of “Good Job!” in a teacher’s purple
pen. (I came of age in a generation when the use of red
for corrections was gauche; my favorite teacher used electric green.)
Literary dreams carried me to a college far away. That spring, green
buds and sprouts shocked me. I’d never seen skies so blue
after my first winter spent in greys and whites. Still, I missed the red
cliffs of my home state, mountains on the horizon, the searing yellow
of its summertime sun. At graduation, I wore a satin purple
sash and black robes, my mother’s digital camera flashing orange.
I had learned to be good, now I learned to be happy, peeling an orange
like Wendy Cope. I tried quieting my brain with that beloved green
herb, took up meditation, tended pots full of delicate purple
blossoms. Wanting to be better than I had been, I agreed to blue
pills that made me less frightened and a bit more sweaty. I signed yellow
carbon paper at the doctor’s office, let them take my blood, warm and red.
I am the orange smears of an Arizona sunset, the cyan blue of a chlorinated pool.
I am an inner siren flashing red, the swirling purple-black of eyes peacefully closed.
I am the marbled green of a gold-nibbed pen, the yellow wallpaper of a brave protagonist.