Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Red that I See

I am walking east on the sidewalk on the north side of Iowa City's Jefferson Street, all one-way. It is morning, the day still shaking off its weariness, but the sunlight is pouring through the trees, piercing the shadows on the sidewalk, creating a cobblestone path of light and darkness.

Though I don’t really want to – for I am lazy as the morning – I pick up the pace, begin jogging, impelled to go forward. Soon my heart is heating up, my lungs gulping in the cool air.

On my right, in the street, traffic is stopping and starting, squealing and roaring. On my left, I pass a blue-gray house under renovation, a foreman prodding with good humor his groggy workers. A woman in a yellow dress passes by me in the other direction – against traffic – a cell phone attached to her right temple. Up ahead, other joggers plot perpendicular paths.

One block, and then another. How far should I go? When I’m there, I’ll know.

Lightly, a sweat breaks, the joints loosen, the stride and breath evens, the heart settles into a rhythm. I’m no longer thinking, only wondering: where am I going?

Sounds, images, thoughts rush by my ears with the wind. If it weren’t for my eyes, I wouldn’t notice any of them. Then, up ahead, to the right and left, above and below, I see the red.

Red stoplights. Red brake lights. Why are so many cars red? They race by, ripening along the way like fruit. Maroon, Ruby, Rust, Fire Engine, and Blood.

Bright scarlet canine mailboxes – fire hydrants – stand guard, unmoving, stationed on each block.

A cherry red scooter sits beneath an open apartment window, forgotten by the others. An alarm clock pulses loudly above it. Where is the driver?

Words appear. Signs with fiery capital letters. Always there, usually passed over, but now meant for me to read: EMERGENCY, SOLD, STOP, YIELD, SUPPORT THE TROOPS/STOP THE WAR.

Horizontal slashes of red piled one on another chase me along the side of a grey parking garage. Homes of solid red brick rise all around me, their picture windows watching me, inviting me in. I can see my reflection.

Below the windows are living seas of red -- pinwheels of zinnias, spikes of gladiolas, and waves of petunias.

Drenched, I turn around to head back, and see it all over again from the other side.

Buildings with lines.
The lonely scooter again, alarm clock above it still pulsing.
Canine mailboxes.
Cars racing and ripening.

All I see is red.

Stopping where I started, my eyes are lifted. Red clay bricks stacked one alongside the other rise upward, converging. At the point, more than I can see comes into view. I can climb the spire.

In the morning light I see fields of green all around me, and an eternity of blue above. All there from the beginning.

The red I could see is drowned.

The cobblestone path of light and darkness I know, no matter how far I go. Earth and sky, I am there.

Amidst all the red that I see.
-- Writing Mind Exercise,
Iowa Summer Writing Festival, July 21, 2009

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