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Olivia Lee

San Gabriel Valley, CA

California School of the Arts


CAS for Database

it rolled away

to hide in the shadows where the boy

fumbled with his belt buckle, clinking, 

the night air damp with only a vague memory—the 

click of heels, the hiss 

of a skirt much shorter than mine— 

not a girl’s skirt, not a lady’s—

a woman’s


when the last metal clink 

dissolved into silence i 

darted forward, snatched, felt 

its plastic weight in my hands, at once both 


and comforting. 


beneath the trembling glare of 

moth-lights i uncapped it— 

red. red like stinging tales in cursive writing, 

red like the markings you leave on their necks, red 

like splatters on your underwear assuring you that 

friday night was not your last. 


we attend a catholic school, a school 

of God that wraps us in 

wool and checkered felt, armor 

that conceals, protects, 

provides. a thousand dress codes couldn’t stop her but maybe, 

just maybe—the evidence remains. one more straw and 

the camel gives way within a needle and for once 

we need not hear her lilting voice, 

her heels, 

the sound of red 

reminding us. 


at school, i remain 

empty handed but my pockets are heavy. the lipstick

grows slick in my hands. 

sentiment, maybe, the delicious thought 

that i had watched some heathen ritual on the park bench or 

maybe, quite shamelessly, i 

dream of the day 

i will earn stares, be

the queen of every whispered tale, ensnare 

strongmen with a single touch. i dream of the day 

i can paint myself red and spread 

my lips in a smile.


Red is a powerful examination of the double bind of hyper-sexualized femininity. Being “too feminine” is a call for attention, not being “feminine enough” is a form of self-ostracization. Through this constructed lens of gender, Olivia Lee explores the symbolism of appearance and the paradoxical reality that one must mask themselves to be authentic.

Olivia Lee is a junior at California School of the Arts in Duarte, graduating in 2021. Her writing has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. She has work featured, or is forthcoming in LiveWire, Aerie International, DASH, Canvas Literary Journal, among others. Red was originally published in the Summer 2019 Issue of Canvas Literary Journal.


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