“Red” by R.G. Cantalupo

R.G. Cantalupo


I know there were other colors in my early years—
yellow daisies wallpapering the kitchen walls,
blue fish swimming across my bedroom ceiling—
but what I remember most about my youth
are the many shades of red. Ruddy-red
my father’s cheeks as he bent to give me
a sip of beer. Crimson-red my mother’s face
stained by his palms. Burnt-red my brother’s ass
welted from the belt. Blood-red drops
on the bathroom floor. Fiery-red words
raging thru the Brooklyn project halls.

Even after we left New York, a red shadow followed us.
It shaded my Uncle’s eyes as he met us
in Los Angeles, the dark-red of depression,
the black-red of his future suicide. As I got older,
I began to crave red like chocolate, became lost
without it. I smeared it on high school noses
with my fists, raced thru suburban streets in
fire-red cars, chased women wearing hot-red
dresses, fought Asian-red enemies in Vietnam.
White days I lit on fire. Black nights
I opened the veins in my eyes.

Red sun in the morning, red moon in the evening,
red flames igniting every day I survived.

from Rattle #8, Winter 1997


R.G. Cantalupo: “I’m a full-time writer these days. I seem to have more desire now than ever, and am getting younger every day.”

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