‘The Red Cycle’ by Kathy Groan

You will hold yourselves up to the light, like this, every twenty-eight days. You will turn, mopping the sweat and blood from your bodies, congealing in the heat of the sun.

To congeal: to solidify or come to rest, as in ‘lumpen mass.’ As in matter: to change states, to coalesce, to be in one place in one piece. Congeal, v. “To stiffen into a viscid jelly-like consistency; to coagulate, clot, or curdle, as milk or blood.”


Where do you hide the passion of the body and its tides? Where do you stash the mucusy pour when it comes? Where do you put your blood, which is the same as your fever?

You think about what it means to live and know this to be a lifetime’s work. You are softly ringing your bells. To be woman is to fear the embarrassment of one’s riches.

The red rose in its redness leaks no yellow. In other words, it develops the argument. 


Because you spill, you consider yourself to be unloveable. You feel it with the hard reality of a fact. So when the priest says body you take body into your body. Wafer, time. Body, life. There is a Greek word – isn’t there always – floating above your head. It emits an indissoluble blood-light and fizzes in the mist.

The unbounded warmth of red has not the irresponsible appeal of yellow, but rings inwardly with a determined and powerful intensity. It glows in itself, maturely, and does not distribute its vigour aimlessly.


She unveils the ovaries tucked high in their tubes. Of what are we made? Is survival a story like this? Origin, omphalos, vagina. What are we but little voyagers, sailing out on maxi-pads which promise not to leak and betray us?

Meanwhile, Christ’s confusion booms ‘Why have you forsaken me’ as a trickle of unreal blood crawls across skin. But in the pale sexual agony, the oversized eyes, the fetish of innocence startled by death, you find an echo of Disney. [Who is it you suspect? And of what might they be guilty?] You sense the existence of a brutal, despairing God; one who must continuously be appeased. You watch the airborne wafer, poised between hand and tongue, floating into your future.


A bucket of blood appears. You dip your hands and feet. Now she holds the packed cotton wad aloft. “Fear no more the heat of the sun.” With this, she declares war on that which spills or is prone to spillage. “With this water, with this fire, with this blood…” You are aware of your ripeness which is not maturity but a cusping between girl and woman. You are running after a bus waving the flag of a country you don’t belong to anymore.



The varied powers of red are very striking. By a skilful use of it in its different shades, its fundamental tone may be made warm or cold. Of course every colour can be to some extent varied between warm and cold, but no colour has so extensive a scale of varieties as red.


When you blush you feel you are giving away a thing you ought really to keep hold of. But your blush is a public delight, because now they know you feel shame as well as guilt. Hereafter you fix your face for its little outings. This public face must carry its guilt in an overnight bag, while on the surface you smile like a benign, generous flower.


To be congealed is to exist as a state of aftermath; is being as residual matter. What is congealedness but a temporary container holding that which can’t be contained?

The congealed is the inside made visible; the inside wearing itself out. You crave this matter which can’t be held or intuited; this matter which is you without the baggage; which is blood, cell, hunger, tissue. It insists on interiority and yet…


[Further Reading: Lyn Hejinian, My Life; Vassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art; The Bible]

Kathy Groan has worked as a bartender, busker, chambermaid, life model, usherette and waitress. She is currently working on a book of creative and critical essays on language, violence and desire.

‘The Red Cycle’ is taken from Issue Five of The Lonely Crowd, which may be purchased here. See the site tomorrow to read Kathy’s essay on ‘The Red Cycle’. 

‘The Red Cycle’ was inspired by Clare Archibald’s ‘Congealed’.

Kathy will read ‘The Red Cycle’ at An Autumn Evening with The Lonely Crowd, this Thursday at Little Man Coffee, Cardiff, 730pm.

© Kathy Groan, 2016. Banner image © Jo Mazelis, 2016.