First Red


Product Description

poems by

Kayla Sargeson

ISBN: 978-1-59948-590-4, 84 pages, $14

Released: October, 2016



About The Author

KSargeson_Px_2016_bookstoreKayla Sargeson is the author of the chapbooks BLAZE (Main Street Rag, 2015) and Mini Love Gun (Main Street Rag, 2013). Her work has been anthologized in the national anthology, Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye as well as Voices from the Attic Volumes XIV and XIX, and Dionne’s Story. Her poems also appear or are forthcoming in 5 AM, Columbia Poetry Review, Chiron Review, The Main Street Rag, and Prosody:  NPR-affiliate WESA’s weekly show featuring the work of national writers. She co-curates the MadFridays reading series and is the poetry editor for Pittsburgh City Paper’s online feature Chapter & Verse. She lives in Pittsburgh where she teaches at the Community College of Allegheny County.




One thinks of Coco Chanel’s ‘Premiere Rouge,’ that classic kiss of crimson red lipstick that defined the femme fatale. Kayla Sargeson’s hot punk mouth sizzles with sexual energy, reckless and vulgar and divine. These poems are hard-edged and brazenly funny, but there’s also the kind of candor and unadulterated violence that makes you feel like you’ve been down to the precinct station with a survivor giving her full statement to the detective on duty. This book is a hard-boiled thriller from start to finish, with intense passions flashing down every page. —D A Powell 

Kayla Sargeson’s First Red, irreverent and never at half-throttle, insists that you look at yourself. The poems do not hesitate “to rip you wide open” so you can come to terms with what you hide. Through the bare skin of cities, through the grief and inevitability of the body, through the sharp cut of language, Sargeson teaches us the gorgeous hymn of our anger—its throat open and singing. —Stacey Waite

Kayla Sargeson’s First Red may be the text that sparks the “punk poem revival.” These smart, world-wise poems are sexy and savvy, intricately crafted like the perfect tattoo. There’s sadness here, too: the burden of family and the sweet, painful longing for dead friends. The only thing this poet “ever quit was the mainstream,” and the evidence lies in each bold line. These full-bodied (full-of-body) poems sting needle-deep and ignite. —Aaron Smith


Reading Edward Field in the Bathroom
of the Rock Room in Polish Hill


You don’t have to get a key to get into the bathroom.
It’s open. No one’s standing in there, waiting
to give you a paper towel in exchange for a tip.

It’s a one stall-er. One toilet, one sink, piss on the floor.
Not a lot of toilet paper, plenty of room. Come back later
if it’s locked. Etched in the wall: a phone number, the words

I’ve never been in love. Boys do not equal the future.
I hate you so fucking much for making me feel this way.
I keep dirty-daydreaming.

Knees get dirty when they’re on the floor
like his with his mouth on my cock,
a wet vacuum sucking whatever’s left of me.

After he leaves, I thumb through the Edward Field
I keep in my bag: the most thrilling thing in the world
is grabbing a guy’s dick. Repeat those lines

over and over to myself until someone new comes.
O beautiful Edward,
posed casually in the black and white author photo

one hand on your hip, smiling slightly
at the camera, black shirt underneath your white button-up.
What were you smirking at when that photo was snapped

I want to tell you
I’m repeating your lines,
I’m grabbing all the dick I can and

confined to these bathrooms, I want you more than ever.
We are trapped here
by the locks on the doors, the knowing

that someone is outside the door waiting
for me to finish, that someone might tell
the bartender I’ve got her boyfriend on his knees.

Pittsburgh, Winter


My father grabs my stepbrother by the throat
for calling my stepmother a bitch.
My father says he does this because he loves my stepbrother,
wants him to be a good man.
I know a woman who lives inside her head,
has an imaginary dragon living in her purse.
She can pull it out whenever she needs it.
Real life is so boring, she says.
Even Warhol agrees: Everybody must have a fantasy.
I’m stuck on the details of living:
the sound a 13-year-old boy makes when he’s shoved against a wall,
the Pittsburgh graffiti artist who sprayed “help” on concrete.
There’s been no escape since I quit getting high.
A friend has been sending me pictures of his cock
and I’m wondering if we’re still friends.
There’s no one I can ask this.
I stay in my yellow house and watch shows
about people getting shot and blown up,
imagining the ghost of the barber who
cut hair in what’s now my dressing area.
I still dream about the guy I loved in Chicago,
imagine seeing him putting money in the meter,
hurrying into Mario’s.
Is it enough to say I’m lonely?
That I’m sure if you pounded a hole through my hand
you’d see him on the other side?

Gray Flannel Shirt


You wore it when we went dancing at the Holiday Club/Chicago.
I said, I like that color on you.

You were the only person I’d dance with
even though you scoffed at my gin and tonic:

Real drinks don’t have fruit in them.
You took a horrible picture of me

(face scrunched up, make-up smeared,
hair a terrible orange-y blonde).

At Villains, you called me a pussy
for drinking a Blue Moon and eating the orange.

They put your body to rest somewhere in Illinois.
Your mother mailed me the shirt.

Topography, Us


Remembering an October:
you pick me up at the salon.
My hair, black.
Don’t remember if you liked it, but it was getting dark
outside and you were smiling
with your whole face.
I like the way you drive so fast,
but point out the Sears Tower, Oprah Winfrey’s
apartment. We think the purple light is stupid.
At your place we get stoned,
watch a Charles Manson documentary.
Next day I have a date with my future ex-girlfriend
and I see your girlfriend’s crap lying on the floor,
in the bathroom.
You give me red wine in a coffee mug, pass the pipe. Brag:
I can smoke anyone under the table.
Stoned silent on the way home,
but I try to brush it off.
The city’s coming at me 80 miles per hour,
open window fucking up my hair, my eye make-up
already smudged.
Don’t know if you think I’m pretty,
but I want you to like me,
another smile to carry with me
like a picture in a wallet.
You’re dangerous
the way you open the car door for me
and I always get in.
I try to fight the high, don’t want you to catch
me studying your cheekbone.
You say, staring straight ahead:
Don’t fight it.
Let it ride out.

SKU: 978-1-59948-590-4 Category: