Sunday, 1 January 2017

Rêver en Rouge

by Nicole Marie

I dreamt that I cloaked my whole body in red;
Drew the crimson hood over my mind,
over my head

It seemed no more, no less of a sin than it had ever been
To cover up, control, and contain for two thousand years, all
that is woman

A red so red, it was apple red; the bite of anti-life
Orb both archaic and ripe, symbol of destruction,
wiles, manipulation, and strife

Lodged in the throat to obstruct our voice, bring us to an impasse
Everyone’s darlings when we sleep that deep sleep, for,
we’re so pretty under glass

Apple red, pomme d’Eden, fabled fall of man by inquisitive feminine hand.
Our mothers, Eve and Pandora, prejudicially condemned; still,
we wear the brand

Red of persecution, violence or curse;
life-force drained
for all we’re worth

Nevertheless I dreamt, as befitting our kind, there was nurturing yet to be done
Faulted delicate hands gripping a basket to take
where forest paths cease to run

This domestic charge allowed, even under the cover of night
but the winter woods suddenly looked unfamiliar,
doused of light

I couldn’t find the sure footsteps of the vibrant women come before,
a sense of adventure replaced with fear, desire to survive
rather than explore

Primitive howls, hateful, taunting calls from the shadows inspiring villagers’ dread
And I, I a moving target, running, running
all in red

These atrocious attentions I and my generations of sisters did not seek;
alternatively punished for being too powerful, attacked
being perceived as too weak

Blush of blame and shame I cannot own; I know who I am
He who created me understands;
I am both the Tiger and the Lamb.

I couldn’t see but I could hear others in the woods screaming in voices otherwise unheard
Seeking fair reclamation for defamation, hearts and feet pounding in darkness, a movement
Wakened wolves stirred.

Sharp branches spreading out to stifle and tear apart all I held to be true
a kingdom divided, boiling with discontent, bleeding
from all sides, all wounds, every distorted view

The huntsman would not come to our defense now, he was sold a different dream;
All of us watching magic mirrors to learn not all
is as it may seem

What good could my basket do with a legion of clouds having swallowed Grandmother Moon whole,
And those I would feed nursing a hunger not of the stomach
but of the soul

I stood still, knowing I couldn’t go back; none of us could
All trying to find a way forward
through that dark, wintry wood

Tattered and tired, I finally noticed the red of the cloak take on a softer shade
I thought of reds of life, birth, power, love—vowing
to wear it as what meaning I bade

I reached into the basket to fulfill my own need and hung the rest on a high branch of a tree.
It was where those deserving could find it, and the unworthy couldn’t reach, weighing
slightly less, for the deservingness of me

In regaining myself, I started to be able to recognize other faces I knew before long
In shivering light we embraced, the moon became the sun,
and we found that it was dawn

A quiet calm seeped over the forest and beyond as the hours of shadows ended;
Bridges were built where divides could be bridged, ruptures
that could be fixed, were mended

Contorted, callous carnivores chased the shrinking hem of darkness, unable to thrive by day;
an evil we could not forever banish,
unity alone would keep them at bay

Orchestrated illusion, panic, hurt, and confusion, how voraciously in the darkness they fed;
Sunlit clarity where faces had names and shared stories,
Stole their human bread.

In nightmares of the ages, always a pack of few grow their number by the evil do;
They consume or transform their prey by giving misfortune some dissevering name
The better to mislead you

I heard an echoing call on the wind from heroines and heroes living, and those buried long ago;
Impelling greatness, commanding strength, thundering an edict to remember
Centuries of wisdom we all already ought to know  

I dreamt I’d run through a dark wood toward dawn,
amongst the forsaken of a torn kingdom
cloaked in variable shades of red;
Awake, aware, I glimpsed there by my bed
the shelf that holds my grandmother’s sewing basket
And every color imaginable of enduring thread

Freedom and responsibility
laid in the part I would play to sew
a land back together in every hue;
I as one of many, repairing
by threaded needle, brush, or pen,
the diverse heritage of a kingdom’s rectitude

* * * * *

Poet’s Commentary: This poem took me down some unexpected roads. Its earliest inspirations came from digital imagery I was working with this past summer dealing with archetypes as a sort of personal reflection—what I’d learned and embraced as a woman before entering another decade of my life. About two and a half months ago I came across digital art of another’s and found it so evocative that I’d later feature it as a prompt in a contest for fellow writers around Halloween. Headlines in October brought about the early notes and reactions more deeply rooted than I’d been aware of, taking me back to memories of a small, patriarchal town that was largely anti-French. I thought of a very young French girl in a red coat so Victorian in its design that it looked like a cloak. I thought of a place long buried with very mixed memories; those of light and those of darkness with an immoral few misusing religion and judgment to sanction their lives and persecute the innocent. I was grieved these months to read of hate groups rising and permeating the minds of some school children to target classmates. A world shift in early November had me tossing a few Magnetic Poetry pieces on the floor to try and mold early notes and phrases into something cathartic. It was the invitation to submit to Writing in a Woman’s Voice that urged me to turn in a poem I hadn’t intended anyone to see because I realize we all need to use our voices now more than ever. Small echoes of past pieces I’d penned triggered recognitions, such as the apple and the throat chakra, as they had been referred to in a chapter I wrote on founding female editors.

In the poem’s unfolding, I discovered how apt all the metaphors were given the fairy tale’s two thousand year history. Tales such as these were often used in literary salons for societal or political commentary. The poem seemed to speak its own language and came out in rhyme, finding symmetry in line word counts which I broke up for emphasis. There is, near its center, a reference to the poetry of William Blake and a personal interpretation thereof. Toward the end, I wanted to revisit the beginning of the dreamer’s dream and find a new direction when rhyming “red”—the image came to me of my grandmother’s sewing basket. The basket seems to have the uncanny ability to generate whatever obscure shade of a particular color one requires at a given time. It’s a seemingly extensive collection in a small space, but in likeness to how my grandmother was, always giving me exactly what I’m looking for when I need it most. It wasn’t until I tried to work with this theme that I remembered how in some of the original versions of “Little Red Riding Hood,” they sewed the wolf’s stomach closed after their escape. Here, it has a more positive connotation of mending, not concerning the prowling wolves, but a kingdom divided.  Given to me shortly before her passing, my grandmother’s sewing basket has within it a prayer of gratitude for a wish fulfilled. As I write this note, I know my heartfelt wishes for unity and equality are shared by many and because of this I am both grateful, and hopeful, for the future. The poem is signed with the name my grandmother lovingly insisted I be given by my parents.

Nicole Marie has spent a decade as a writer and editor of various mediums in both literary and journalistic sectors.  She has shared her experiences and expertise in interviews, essays and contributions to professional anthologies. Her chapter "Founding Female Editors: Your Voice, Your Vision and How to Make it a Reality" was featured in Women, Work, and the Web: How the Web Creates Entrepreneurial Opportunities, Encourages Women's Studies (Rowman & Littlefield 2015). She has been an active Letters member of the National League of American Pen Women, a national "organization for professional women in art, letters or music," since 2009.

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