Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Her Colors

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Her colors warp around the canvas like diapers.
The pin, cutting baby flesh, leads to bleeding.
The anger of accidental pain. That kind of red.

And the yellow, barely making it,
the way sunlight never really reaches through
the window near a hospital bed.

The lavender, on stems, stored away for seasons,
in a drawer, dry and brittle, fading.
Just a hint of scent remaining.

The orange, sad. Like a bitter woman, tired of waiting.
Not afraid to tell you. Not afraid to be mad.

And the black, moving. Like people
you thought you knew, but didn't.
The ones who moved into and out of you, without touching.
That kind of black.

And the pink. The lipstick of a thirteen year old.
In her room, alone. Looking in the mirror,
hoping her mother won't come in.
Tracing, tracing her lips, deeper,
deeper into brightness. Into leaving.

And the green. The green of mint, of wind, of sage,
of wanting. The green you make yourself for fear
it will not grow this season. The green out of season.
The green of making your own season.

White, fenced in. Circles, squares, lines, shapes.
Holding the smoke so it doesn't smother.
Keeping it checked. Boundaried. Safe.
Staying awake. A discipline. A limit.
Snow shoveled before it has time to drift.

All the colors together make brown,
but darker, deepened by years of waiting.
In mirrors, at diapers, over dinners.
And finally the break.

For cream. The leaking of dreams.
The sudden shift. Motion.
The churned middle of an eclair, bit hard, oozing.
Taking seconds. Thirds.
That kind of rapture.
That kind of color.

Cassie first wrote “Her Colors” for the artist Janette Grassi, with whom she has collaborated in the past. This past spring, Cassie was painting regularly on her back porch — often with her husband, 18-year-old stepdaughter, and 6-year-old daughter playing in the backyard nearby. In March, this poem was chosen from among hundreds to be published in her state’s largest daily newspaper. These paintings culminated in a series based on past poems that became “Love has taught me this language,” an exhibition-reading, which was presented at AMSA Studios’ Earth Night in June. In addition to writing, Cassie teaches English and Women’s Studies at the university level, and Writing with the Body classes that combine gentle yoga and journaling, at AMSA Studios.

Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D. is the author of 13 books, most recently Earth Joy Writing. The book includes writing prompts for every month of the year, plus audio meditations and video workshops. She teaches an innovative online course combining mindfulness and feminist theory for women academics called The Feminar. Cassie is currently working on a memoir about how coming out returned her to her mother and her faith.

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