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A Valentine’s Day poem, short and sweet.

By Marvin Bell.

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MARS BEING RED

Being red is the color of a white sun where it lingers
on an arm. Color of time lost in sparks, of space lost
inside dance. Red of walks by the railroad in the flush
of youth, while our steps released the squeaks
of shoots reaching for the light. Scarlet of sin, crimson
of fresh blood, ruby and garnet of the jewel bed,
early sunshine, vestiges of the late sun as it turns
green and disappears. Be calm. Do not give in
to the rabid red throat of age. In a red world, imprint
the valentine and blush of romance for the dark.
It has come. You will not be this quick-to-redden
forever. You will be green again, again and again.

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The poet considers various symbolic values of the color red. He begins with his title – Mars, the planet named for the god of war, is red; and warlike rage makes us red – we become crimson with rage, etc. So red isn’t merely the color of hearts and love; it’s the color of hate. The poem will play among the symbolic values of red, and it will urge one sort of redness upon us.

Being red is the color of a white sun where it lingers
on an arm. Color of time lost in sparks, of space lost
inside dance.

Red is our burning, our brightening; it is our flushed and feverish sensual dance, whose intensity makes us lose all sense of time.

Red of walks by the railroad in the flush
of youth, while our steps released the squeaks
of shoots reaching for the light.

Red is the shade of our most vivid memories of passionate youth, our very steps animating the natural world. (Notice the assonance here: youth/shoots; released/squeaks/reaching.)

Scarlet of sin, crimson
of fresh blood, ruby and garnet of the jewel bed,
early sunshine, vestiges of the late sun as it turns
green and disappears.

[Red is the color of sex, the jewel bed, one’s early years of erotic bliss. You barely register, from that ruby bed, the sun turning the world from amazing red to ordinary green as it sets.]

Be calm. Do not give in
to the rabid red throat of age.

[Here the lover turns to his beloved with his urgent imperative: Reject the martial red, the red of screaming rage and conflict. Be calm, not warlike. Have the passion of youth, not the aggression of age.]

In a red world, imprint
the valentine and blush of romance for the dark.

[In a dark red bloody world of wars, keep always in your mind and heart the light red blush of lovers’ bliss. This will lighten the darkness of warlike red.]

It has come. You will not be this quick-to-redden
forever. You will be green again, again and again

[At this very moment, Valentine, another one of our fires of passion has kindled. Our various forms of reddening (the poem leaves nothing to the imagination here) will not unfold so quickly forever. We’re going to get old and green, like the late sun. Read your Andrew Marvell! Calmly but determinedly, it’s time for us to blight the world of hate, and light the world of love.]

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One Response to “Imprint / the valentine and blush of romance for the dark”

  1. Marvin Bell, “Mars Being Red” (h/t Margaret Soltan) Says:

    […] Soltan’s reading of this poem is very good: to summarize (you really should read the link), “Mars” implies war (as does “fresh blood,” “age” where the obvious alliteration would be “rage”). So red is the color of love and hate. But in another “space lost inside dance,” not one moving towards unity, we can imagine ourselves young. Here Soltan picks up on something I wouldn’t have gotten in a million years, the assonance between “youth/shoots,” and “released/squeaks/reaching:” youth is about green, a move away from red. The red, beginning with “Scarlet,” changes until it lightens into a “late sun” that is green; “ruby” and “garnet,” in the center, imply a deep purple. In growing older, we are given sexual love most fully, and thus can be “calm” even with the presence of “come” (as Soltan says: this leaves nothing to the imagination). The red is the passion which causes the green. […]

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