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The Colors of Blood

Joella Kay

The Colors of Blood
a poem by Joella Kay


it’s supposed to be this simple, isn’t it? we live, so we bleed crimson. we are women, so we flower and fruit and crack open like overripe pomegranates waiting to scoop out their seeds for hungry men. our love spelled out in the lifedeathflesh the bondsmen paint along their doorways. so maybe this is a love letter, mother— you inscribing yourself upon the writhing muscle of my heart before i knew to own it. your name and the thousands that came before flowing through my veins, thicker than water. a simple truth: i belonged to the dead, faceless masses living in your arteries before i could belong to myself.


the stain on the cotton. the hue of decaying ichor. the life that’s given all it has. cut open a tree and you’ll find concentric circles hugging each other like the lie that’s supposed to be family. go to an orchard and you’ll find apples littering the dewy grass, the fruit borne of women made full and hollowed time and time again. so have they fallen far from the trees? the longer they linger, the less they love. an apple forgotten browns with time, like a bleeding wound that stills and scabs. the winds will come, you know. the gales will ravage the orchards and leave the trees weeping, their branches reaching upwards to grasp at nothing but air, pleading with the skies.


another filial lie: blood living in dermis. scarlet masquerading as a muted indigo until we prick our tender fingertips. see, blood knows to be ashamed of its true colors. we are all rotting apples, all daughters. all ashamed. tell me, do you see progeny dilating in your reflection? do you feed off your offspring the way they suckled you in infancy? we are cannibals. we are all cannibals haunted by nightmares of our mothers cracking one too many times, breaking over and over until they shatter. in the end, we take more than we can give, forever indebted to our roots.


i have my father’s bones. my mother’s eyes. his skin, paling in the moonlight like a ghost. her hair, cascading down my shoulders in a cursed waterfall. his fire, his temper, his hands that could hold me and break me in the same breath. her calm, her voice, the way her mother told her she’d never be enough.

so are we enough? will we ever be enough? i am my mother, my father, never myself. i hate this; i love this; i hate this more than i love this. i know that someday i’ll leave them the way they left their parents, break them they way they’ve broken. still i’ll bleed, carry on the infinite cycle of life. it’s supposed to be this simple, isn’t it?

- Joella Kay

In a patriarchal society, it's easy to feel like our parents relate to us as only as extension of themselves. I wrote this piece about bloodlines and the struggles of familial connection; existing as your own person but also as another link in a line of ancestors.


Joella Kay is a Korean-American poet and songwriter with an affinity for run-on sentences. When she isn't writing or playing piano, you can usually find her in the throes of an existential crisis. Find her on twitter @joelleche_.

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