Guest Poet Janet  Collinge

Pink or blue

She stood before the mirror
bringing the curler down
on lashes
shaking with fear

taking out her lipstick
she added too-bright red
to lips that would soon
scream, cry or sigh

she had done everything
and wrong
holding the stick 
under her urine stream
positioning it just right

and now it was time to wait
to see if one little mistake
would cost her her life
or so it felt

it wasn’t that she hated children
Megan, her six-year-old niece,
was three-legged race,
tumble-on-the-grass joy

but there was the world
her world
full of 12 hour days
a boyfriend
whose work history
was a gap-toothed chain

and the bathroom
she went back to it again
the one place
that was immaculate
at peace
the one place where she cried
and breathed
filled the tub full of water
and slept

there were thirty seconds left
thirty seconds when she thought
what would a son look like
or daughter
if it had been different
would her heart be bulging with
her hands pulling pink and blue
ribbons from the air

10-second sprint
of a thousand emotions

the buzzer rang
she looked down
at the stick
all white with just the brand name pink
not pregnant
she rolled up in a fetal position
confused, broken, unanything
and let her lashes cry.

April, 1998

Janet  Collinge's Questions:

1. Does the putting on the makeup while waking for the results of a pregnancy test seem unnatural to you? Is it something you would do if you are female?

2. When you read this poem, do you think it is the narrator who is saying the lipstick is too-bright red or the mind of the female?

3. If the woman had been pregnant, what do you believe she would have done with the baby?

Correspond with Janet  Collinge at
with your ideas about this poem.

The Albany Poetry Workshop