I was not born with this rage.

I don’t remember when it first entered me. (Yes, you do.)

Nor do I remember when I first realized everything I saw was faintly veiled in red: the city streets, the faces of people I passed by every day, my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. (Are you sure about that?)

Now, I drape this red rage over me like a hooded cape made of velvet and ermine. If I tuck my head just right inside the hood, I cannot see the trim of white that once scampered along a winter’s day. Isn’t that the point—to hide from pain and suffering? Me, I mean. Others, too. How red is tied to beginning, middle, and end: my birth, my shoe in the middle of a street, people gathered at a shocked distance, hands clasped over mouths, those same mouths that the night before tore at a medium rare steak on their plates (a death, but not my own).


Here’s more red for you, born of pain (the rage came later): The corner of Washington & 17th, July, year of our Lord 1993. You are silky soft, lapin-eyed, still smelling of country-girl little bluestem, cornstalk buildings cleaving clouds when you tilt your tender little head and sniff these city smells, concrete seizing heat you feel through new city-girl shoes. Even the grackles and Blue Jays are softer here, trounced by the grinding of delivery trucks and SUVs. This city is too new. Too much. Too, too, too many people panting mad in the heat. Noses twitching like alley rats. This city is too hot in its fur. This day’s dawn, a fabrication, rubicund, but this moment still honeyed, still pure as a cottontail. Until a predator—say a coyote or a man—appears from downwind. Run in those new city-girl shoes as fast as you can. Until you trip, and a tempest rolls in, hovering, heavy, smelling of rot, of sweat, of bile. Kick and claw and bite, throw out all you have. You have tried. No one can accuse you of not trying. Later, after you clean yourself up, relief. It could have been so much worse, such a deeper red.

(Reader, did you see distance is still needed in the retelling, all these years later?)


I will reframe my rage, tuck it between the pages of a book, bury it under a pillow, wrap it in a blanket, in another round of drinks. If depression is rage turned inward, what, then, do I call the simmering of avoidance? Is this why we’re attracted to fairy tales—because we understand what red signifies? —A forest, a copse of trees, a house with a plume of smoke drifting up from the chimney, an open door where more red is waiting to eat us up?


Let’s look at what is red:

Passion. Power. Hunger. Fear. Pain. Shame. Anger. 

Life Force (see: above).


I now see I forgot Love, but I’m not sure where it belongs.


For this one I will remain in first person. (I must own this one as my own doing.)

A July weekend, year of my Lord 2000 (what is it with July?—I have concluded it’s red heat, red fireworks, a hand on a boiling pot not watched). A pleasant man sits next to me. We introduce ourselves, talk of books and art, knock back a few shots with barbaric yawps that make the bartender laugh. Here’s red again, a warm flush head to toe (see: Passion, Hunger). A red truck I jump into (STOP). The bartender’s name is Leo. I’m sure red-truck guy told me his name, too, but all I see is Red Means GO. We drive deep into the forest, up the mountainside. I know this terrain well. We pull off onto a dirt service road I’ve passed many times but have never wandered down. It descends steeply, stops abruptly at a stream. My first thought is How beautiful. My second thought is Bears live here. The third thought doesn’t come until the next morning, after I’ve popped my sixth ibuprofen and prayed over the toilet. It doesn’t matter that red-truck guy was a lovely man. It doesn’t matter that I enjoyed this small moment of my life. What matters is the heat I feel rising in my veins (see: Shame, Anger). I’m smarter than this, knowing to always keep myself out of a scent trail.

And yet.

Days later, one of the local station’s lead stories—video shot in the dappled afternoon light of a patch of tall grass near a stream. Two deputies stand over a blanketed lump, bones of what appears to have once been a foot peeking out. In the background I see a boulder with a peace sign spray painted in blue on it.

I had leaned on that boulder to slip my boots back on.

 (How do you wrap your head around this?)  If you ever figure it out, let me know. 


I hate to use the word “lucky” to describe how incredibly stupid I still feel for cornering myself with a strange man on a deserted mountain road, but lucky I am (putting the onus on my shoulders yet again).

Why do my actions matter? Because we have made it so. And I hate that about this world.


Some say rage can only be absolved by forgiveness.  My reply is this—I doubt they’ve ever truly experienced rage, then.

Forgiveness is a shade of yellow I've never allowed to color my walls. 

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MIND WHAT’S GOOD by L Mari Harris

The girl sits on her old teeter totter in the backyard, eating mini marshmallows out of a bag. Pushes off. Crick. Down. Crick. Pushes off again. Crick. Pork Chop the Chihuahua watches each marshmallow go from fingers to mouth, cocking one eyebrow, then the other.

A man in a black suit and hat walks down the alley. It’s early August, 98 degrees. He has something in his hand.

“Hey, Mister! What’s in your hand?”

The man stops at the fence and holds a hammer and a bar of soap up.

The girl and Pork Chop stare. Mrs. Potter from three houses over once walked through the alley carrying a squawking chicken she was going to turn into a nice soup with noodles and carrots and celery, but that was about as weird as the girl had ever seen.

“Why you wearing that hot suit?” The girl scratches Pork Chop behind his little ears. The tiny dog leans into her hand, shivers with contentment.

The man smiles and leans his forearms on the fence. “Would you like to hear the Word of God?”

“You a preacher or something?”

“Something like that. I help people, showing them God’s goodness and grace.”

“How you find them?”

“They tend to find me.” The man juggles the hammer and the bar of soap to his other hand, pulls a handkerchief out, wipes his brow.

The girl sees her best friend by the trees. Maggie?

The girl and Maggie, flip flops slapping on the sidewalks, giggling, arms draped around each other’s shoulders or waists, eyes down when the older boys would rev their engines and shout as they roared by, then giggling again, clutching their arms, the downy hairs tingling. Then, the girl’s daddy already downstate, springtime, one of the older boys stopping as she walked along the road, offering a ride, No thanks, offering it again, No, really, I’m almost home. Next day, girls laughing, boys pointing, one sticking his finger in her face, We hear you’re a good time. Everyone laughing, the girl cutting through backyards, missing her big bear of a daddy who still called her Princess Sunshine, missing her momma who's distracted from working three jobs, missing her best friend who called her trash as the girl ran out the school doors.

The man in the suit turns and looks. “See someone?” 

“No, guess not. Mister, you haven’t said what you’re doing with those things.”

“Why, to do my washing and build a house for the Lord.”

The girl hears a saw start up in the garage. Daddy?

The girl’s daddy, building her a bookcase on their last weekend together, the girl sitting on a milk crate, watching, listening over the buzz of the saw and pounding of nails. Made a stupid mistake, baby. You mind what’s good and you won’t go wrong. But make sure it’s the good you’re hearing. That’s where I got it wrong. The girl wrapped her arms around her daddy and didn’t let go until her arms went numb.

The man in the suit cocks his head. “Hear something?”

“No, guess not. You got a long ways to go? You thirsty, Mister?”

“No, thank you. I’m on my way to Redemption. I was told it’s just up the way a bit, past the edge of town.”

“Past Mr. Elwood’s dairy farm?”

“So I hear.”

“What’s this Redemption look like?” The girl wonders if it’s a town she’s never heard of or maybe that church out on Hwy B where talk is they play with snakes and fall to the floor. She hopes it’s not that.

The man in the suit drums his fingers on the gate, furrows his eyebrows. “Horses with velvet-soft muzzles tickling your palm for sugar cubes. Lilac bushes big as houses. No fighting. Fresh sheets on your bed every night, and the smell of bacon frying every morning. No one ever has to go away or find themselves alone, because there are no mistakes and no lies. All the ice-cold lemonade and chocolate donuts and French fries with extra ketchup you could ever want.”

She loves it all.

Pork Chop jumps up and down, wagging his little tail. He loves it all too. The girl and the man both laugh. She scoops up Pork Chop and walks toward the gate. She wants to see this Redemption for herself.

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