Nickole Brown

Riddle, Riddle Marie

Pretend I know you. Pretend in a deep pool
I always find you first following the familiar
Marco-Polo of your voice. Pretend we’ve played
freeze-tag wrapped in the sticky transparency
of spring, new grass greening our shoes and knees.
Pretend we’ve played hopscotch, made it to heaven
so many times we wore the chalk to a knuckle-scrape
nub, that we kicked the can, jumped double-dutch,
sat cross-legged facing each other clapping out
dirty songs about boys. Pretend I know something
and point it out. It is not red, that color quick
to disappear without light, and not blue, that satin shade
of drowning. No, orange is violence and yellow
fear, and purple, no, it’s an obvious
iris, a flower church-dusted, bearded petals snapping
shut. No, pink are the walls of a bedroom
long gone, and white reflects everything
lost. We are older now, try for shades
not taken, hues we never got to see,
all those school words that meant
nothing until it was seen to be believed—
milkblue Adriatic, dustmoth brown
storm, oilslick eel crushed underfoot in Chinatown.
Whisper expensive green—chartreuse, peridot,
olive—or new paint for new walls—wrought iron,
Derby rose, Queen Anne’s Lace. Show me what patterns
you see on the pressed insides
of your eyes, and I’ll return with the colors of where
I’ve been all these years—rust smear of roach in
tiny apartments, yellowed plastic
computer clicking through the night,
rain in the canals, pastel squares of chicklets
sold for a peso by such a tired little girl. Tell me,
what is it you don’t see? Sit with me, sit in
grainy black, we’ll be like two sisters
leg-locked, up too late playing slumber party
game after game in the flashlit dark.

Nickole Brown
“Riddle, Riddle Marie” is from Sister (Red Hen Press, 2007).