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The Color Red

for my mother and my sisters

by Liana Kapelke-Dale

It’s that time of the month, as men say while women imagine

punching them on the mouth so that blood trickles down

their pretty faces but also just because We. Can’t. Stand.

Being. Written. Off. Like. That. Anymore.



Image is of crumpled red sheets.
Image credit: Jackson David on Unsplash

I lay myself down, over coral-colored sheets, under the pink fluffy comforter,

on top of sky-painted pillowcases

in the bright sky-painted spring afternoon.

It’s not quite green yet, not even pale green,

but if you close your eyes

and concentrate

you smell a tiny hint of green in the air.


A hint so small it’s just a secret really

and you hear the birds conversing in their foreign tongues

chirps and trills that could either be basic

house wren gossip or the darkest of collusions –

maybe two female cardinals are planning a murder

because their men keep raiding

their wardrobes and stepping out,

looking more fabulous in red high heels

than the women ever will in their neat brown house dresses.


The hint of green is like the hint of red

emanating from me. They are sisters,

this red and this green.



I close my eyes and try to sleep

but my shoulders ache

my limbs tremble

while my womb is sore and bleeding

and from out of nowhere


memories begin to ping, ping at me,

sticking to my skin like overripe

berries on a hot day, as though I were

with Peter Pan and her Lost Girls

only Peter’s kind of a bitch like any other thirteen-year-old

girl – jealous and sensing my mortification

because I started bleeding

on the last day of fifth grade two years ago

and have to sneak sanitary napkins when I think

no one’s looking.


I pretend to be normal like them

but Peter’s perceptive in that cruel teenage way

so she makes little spoon catapults

and fills them with sticky

raspberries, strawberries, maybe some rainbow sherbet, and

aims them at me while the Lost Girls watch and laugh

ping, ping –

ha ha.

How very funny is

this one-sided food fight.



Image of red background with silhouettes of two people.
Image credit: Édouard Bossé on Unsplash

My mother gave me a garnet to celebrate.

A deep red garnet, a bloodstone,

just like my older sisters’.

We became three, more sacred than we were before,

the triple moon goddess,


but I didn’t know.

I didn’t think about it.

I was embarrassed; tried to be matter-of-fact,

no biggie, ain’t no thang,


just mind-bending pain for a few days

every month

where I lie like a fetus in my bed

and learn that sometimes there’s just nothing

you can do to ease your suffering.


We’d all three read Judy Blume, passed it down

till it reached me: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Margaret was terrified like me, only not

like me at all because she thought she’d never

get her period – whereas I watched my body

start to shed itself and bloom

at the same time.


I shed crimson rose petals

and my breasts swelled into two pale moons


and it was beautiful


but I wasn’t ready.


My body ripened too soon,

softened and bloomed like a pink

rosebush in early spring,

before the crocuses and tulips.


I was a small child wearing giant clown shoes.


The fear.

Not able to control your body.

Not able to pretend you are what you’re not.

Not able to figure out what you are and what you’re not.


A labyrinth of neural pathways

carved into my brain as though

with a ritual knife,


and no one can tell me why I feel

so full, so empty, so messy, all at once.


I’m still a child, wishing to God, the Goddess, and Santa Claus

that I’m not really growing up,


that my mess is only a jar

of red paint I spilled

down my front.


Black and white image of the author, Liana Kapelke-Dale.
Liana Kapelke-Dale

Liana Kapelke-Dale (she/her) is a queer poet, mixed-media artist, ATA Certified Translator (Spanish to English), and non-practicing attorney. She is the author of the full-length collection Seeking the Pink (Kelsay Books) as well as two poetry chapbooks. Her poetry has been featured in myriad journals. Liana lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her lovely pointer-hound mix, Poet.

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