Their eyes glow scarlet,
righteously angry and ready for war
against the charcoal structures our ancestors built this world on
when the arsonists of days past gave way to architects.
I tremble, crimson, behind them,
waiting for their fire to light my skin a color to better match
flames on the tongues that never stay hidden silently behind their teeth.
Open mouths provide oxygen to fuel each other on
I open my mouth but feel no flame,
only heated air,
begging me to burn through the towers that stain our fingerprints
with ashes from the last time the world went up in flames
But I never wanted to bleed fire.
I’ve been green before,
Fading emerald into the back of a pick-up truck
or mantis like the hay bales stacked high in a barn filled
with spiders and cracked windows and creaking floorboards,
while “ain’t” and “the goats need fed” float on the sun-soaked air
and thick boots root me to the ground.
You taught me how to do that;
to twist my voice into a drawl
and my hair into thick braids
and my fingers around the twine of the hay bale that I lift
up to my chest and swing into the loft
later, how to brush the shining straw out of my hair
wash the dust from my grass-stained skin
and sleep in shamrock fields while trailers rattled down the road
and pigeons cooed a spring sonata
I’ve been blue too,
bleeding cobalt into pages
singing sapphire into cool air while I hide behind a microphone.
You urged me to brighten;
perhaps into cyan
or cerulean to match the sky on your favorite kind of day -
I guess it’s for the best that you’ve never seen the navy that gushes from my fingertips
into whatever lies close enough to soak it up -
It’s too close to the dark grey and black that you insist I never slip into
even though you taught me how to match every other colour that surrounds me.
I was yellow a long time ago,
you never had to teach me that.
It was only natural that the sun made me want to be golden too;
my hair bleached maize;
skin burned and healed into honey
glowing under daffodil clouds
and over saffron sand that shifted to embrace my feet with every step.
You loved it when I shone that color
you tell me to photosynthesize more often
Purple was never easy.
It took paint gliding over my eyelids,
and thick elastic bands pulling my hair up away from my face,
stretching my skin smooth.
Inches of rubber between my heels and the tiles,
layers of lace and velvet hovering around my knees
or draped over my body and brushing the floor.
But I liked the magic sparkling over my skin,
even if it never reached my veins,
and you liked the lilacs and orchids that people tucked into my hair with their eyes
and silky violets they slipped behind your ears.
The orange that followed was always my favorite;
my shoes slipped off and left by the chair
while my apricot-soled feet pressed against lukewarm tiles
the layers of lace and velvet swirling around my legs
amber light flooding through the gaps between arms and waists
shining gold on my loosened hair
while you watched,
your tangerine drink clutched in a peach-colored hand -
I haven’t been that vivid in a while.
I’ve been wondering lately
what color my skin is when there is no background to fade into
My mouth opens again
as I try to catch a spark on my tongue
the way I caught snowflakes before my skin
knew what it was to fade in and out of different canvases
before you taught me how to blend myself with every color on the palette
because life is easier when you aren’t the contrast.
Now, I can match your every shade;
I’ve mastered the art of being a chameleon.
I was never smart enough to be invisible.