Poem 332 ± May 1, 2016

James Allen Hall
Reagan Red

National Portrait Gallery
March 12, 2016

Nancy Reagan hangs in her red dress
across from the crowded washrooms,

ensuring no hanky-panky goes down red
in the men’s room, not on her watch,

no nancyboys allowed, though I like to
think of her whiling away in “that shade

of scarlet forever known as Reagan red,”
the smell of unflushed waste enveloping her.

Leaving the gallery, a woman whose life knows
each brick alleyway in D.C. follows me down

the steps, closes in on me at the crosswalk,
takes a sudden swing, misses me. Her eyes

are bloodshot; when I confront her, she hides
one hand behind her, holds the other palm-out:

No offense. This is what living with the Reagans
is like. That red legacy—would that it could die

in me. I’m living with her coursing through
my veins, the reaginic culture of her

nearly undetectable, Reagan+, her breath
hot on the back of my bared neck.


James Allen HallJames Allen Hall is the author of Now You’re the Enemy (University of Arkansas Press, 2008), which won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Recent poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Arts and Letters, and Agni. He teaches creative writing and literature at Washington College in Maryland.

This poem is not previously published.