Red: Guatemala, 1980 by Mandy Macdonald

this is the colour we use to ward off the evil eye:

scarlet of cochineal, russet of achiote pod

plant and insect woven

into skirt, sash and shawl


this is the dance of rose crimson vermilion terracotta:

bougainvillea swarming over tiled roofs

the shapely bowl for food

baked by morning sun

scoured clean at evening


this is the life-and-death march of blood:

of workers blood of women

monthly and daily flowing

red river of sorrow and strength

scouring my country’s wounds

crying: Enough! Enough!


(and i cannot but think of the red of the lips and the scarf

of the girl on horseback

in another country

where the banners fly red and black

and she calls from the roadside:

Come and see, come and see!


in her crooked arm

a baby sleeping perched

like a kestrel)

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