an on-line poetry magazine
for the 21st century


Pete Dolack


We don’t remember the first time we recognized red
There is red sky at sunset, sometimes
The Red Planet
Stop signs and traffic lights
Tomatoes and strawberries
Red isn’t controversial
Except when it’s the color of revolution
It’s just red
Right there at the edge of the rainbow
But I can’t really know if my red
Is your red
I know blue when I see it
Blue is a popular color, too
But maybe my red is your blue
Or maybe green

To almost everybody
Red is red
And we know it when we see it
But what if we see different reds?
When I see red
You see blue
When I see blue
You see red
It’s blue and red for you
And it’s red and blue for me
I know those colors when I see them
You know those colors when you see them
There’s no right or wrong here
Just red and blue
But I don’t want to complicate this controversy
Did I say controversy?
Red isn’t supposed to be controversial
Certainly no more than blue can be
But one color at a time
Unless somebody else’s red is my green
Or vice versa

Roses are blue
And violets are red
Just doesn’t have a proper ring to it
If you’ll excuse a momentary lapse into doggerel
Although I will understand if you’d rather not excuse
Roses are red to you and me
And everybody who sees red
I’m not suggesting that we declare roses blue
And maybe your red really is my red
That really would settle matters the simplest way
To you, red is red
To me, red is red
And I can’t know what you see when you see red
Just as you can’t know what I see when I see red
We just agree that object we call red is red
What we call red since before we could remember

There is a certain finality in declaring red is red
Since it is the edge of the rainbow
Because we can’t see infrared
Go below 430 terahertz and it’s invisible
Would infrared look red if we could see it?
There would be so much more red around us
Maybe it’d be like having Betelgeuse for our Sun
Or living on Mars
If we could hold our breath indefinitely
Perhaps the trees would turn red?
We might be overwhelmed to suddenly see beyond red
Or perhaps we’d just have really big eyes
To take in all that spectrum

I’m just glad we don’t have to debate the color of gamma rays
Because that would be a very brief discussion
Red is so much safer and gentler
As is blue
There’s room for both
And all the other colors

Pete Dolack is an activist, photographer, poet and essayist who wishes he could keep all those balls in the air but, alas, keeps dropping some of them. When he is wearing his poet’s hat, he is the author of the chapbook And Now A Word From Our Sponsors. Among the publications in which his poetry has appeared are Will Work For Peace anthology, Blue Collar Review, Lummox, Appleseeds anthology and Tribes. When he is wearing a different hat, he writes the Systemic Disorder blog.