Red on White

by Lita A. Kurth

Abstract woman paintingRed on White (Father)

Never leave a mark, not paint, not blood. Instead, let all remember the white space where you were, the intricate outline of the chair you sat in, your place at the head of a table so glossy and large, as big as a ping-pong table, made by Grandpa, now only an outline itself.

You are bright white, a ghost in the sunset: your chainsaw, your hoe, your cultivator, your workboots, your silver hardhat, your Pontiac LeMans with the bashed-in passenger door, your workhorse harness, the one with the brass knobs, hanging in the horse barn, your radio with the Grand Ole Opry coming through the static of years.

The green rocking chair where you sat and sang “Ach du lieber Augustine” is an outline sitting on a wooden floor that has caved in, a house that lies in shambles barely above the earth. All these phantasms, the frost-covered windows, the balsam Christmas tree you searched out in the woods and chopped down and dragged home, sitting in the hallway, snow on its branches melting to the floor, fragrance like winter woods, like heaven. Your German carols, “Ihr Kinderlein, kommet,” and “O du frohliche,” your leather Bible with red words for everything Jesus said.


Black on White (Mother)

In a large black frying pan, add the bacon. And when you’ve made enough for ten, fry the eggs, five at a time. Pop! Snap! Hissss. Salt and pepper fall like pleasure in the kitchen, the paint behind the stove coated with grease and the grease coated with dust. Forks hit plates; in five minutes, bread crusts wipe the last of the yolk.

Put the pickles in the fridge. Throw the crumbs to the chickens. Stack the dishes, some with roses, some with maroon-edges, some with sheaves of wheat and gold rims, most chipped or scratched. Fill the dishpan with water. Get out the dishrag, the sudsy soap, and start. Fill another dishpan with rinsewater. Fling the water on the rock garden. Dry till a dishtowel is soaked. Hang it over a chair by the stove. Pull out another from the metal drawer that sticks. Pile up the plates in the cupboard. Sweep the wooden floor that has never shone. Wipe the table.

Start the clothes washer groaning and sloshing. Turn on the radio. “Girls, girls, girls are made for love” and “If I had a hammer”, but you don’t. You have a ragmop and a diaper pail, a pump and a clothesline, a wood-gas combination stove, and a big, big belly full of twins.

Read The Story Behind “Red on White” on our blog.

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About Lita A. Kurth

Lita A. Kurth (MFA Rainier Writers Workshop) has published essays, poems, and short stories in TikkunNewVerseNewsBlast Furnaceeliipsis…literature and art, the Santa Clara Review, the Exploratorium QuarterlyTattoo Highway, Vermont Literary Review, and othersAn excerpt of her novel appeared as a story, “Marius Martin, Proletarian,” in On the Clock: Contemporary Short Stories of Work (Bottom Dog Press). Her nonfiction, “Pivot,” which appears in the 2012 University of Nebraska anthology, Becoming:What Makes a Womanwas nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work “Lifetime TV Movie” was a finalist for the 2012 [email protected] contest. She regularly contributes to,, and

Lita A. Kurth

Lita A. Kurth is online at