The Fifth Way of Wearing Vermillion

by Kathleen Hellen Read author interview December 19, 2011

I could only see the husk. Shadows were the masks of sentient beings. The girl said, “No one will believe you.” She pulled the covers up.

A window fan was thrumming. She was there: Not the girl who said she was my sister. The woman in red. The woman leaned in. Smoke clung to her breathing. “What you said to him… You have to say you”re sorry.”

The lid I had been pushing suddenly released and a lightness carried me over clotheslines flagged with sheets, over tar and shingled rooftops, beyond the stunted trees and iron landscape. The only thing I kept was the mark, fading from its birth-red to a freckle on my forehead.

Faces in contortion hauled me in. Wisps of sail. The orange buoys startled. They wrapped a towel around my shoulders, asked if I could speak.

The trip to the lake. The party. I was calm. My thoughts swirled at the surface of a room barely big enough. A window with no stars. Darkness opened into orange into red. I could see looking in. Lights like fireflies. It was true: He was not my father.

Carry me, I said. Take me to the point where we begin.

About the Author:

Kathleen Hellen is a poet and the author of The Girl Who Loved Mothra (Finishing Line Press, 2010). Her work has appeared in Barrow Street, Cimarron Review, the Cortland Review, The Evansville Review, the Hollins Critic, In Posse Review, Prairie Schooner, RHINO, Subtropics, among others; and on WYPR"s "The Signal." Awards include the Washington Square Review, James Still and Thomas Merton poetry prizes, as well as individual artist grants from the state of Maryland and Baltimore City. She is senior editor for The Baltimore Review.