SageGreenJournal.org voices out of the West, mostly poetry, personal to planetary...

Erin Robertson

Louisville, Colorado

 

Erin lives in Louisville, Colorado and writes in the quiet dark hours when the house goes to sleep.  She was selected for a 2017 Writer-to- Writer Mentorship through the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, and was a guest of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Koyukuk National Wildlife Refuge near Galena, Alaska, through the 2017 Voices of the Wilderness Artist in Residence program.  Erin received a first place and an honorable mention in the 2016 Michael Adams Poetry Prize, and her poems have been performed as choral works by Ars Nova Singers.   You can read more of her work in the anthology MycoEpithalamia:  Mushroom Wedding Poems, in FUNGI Magazine, and on her website:  erinrobertson.org

470 nanometers

 

 

In the beginning there was dark only and light

            kyaneos and glaukos;

Homer hadn’t a word for the blue sky or Aegean Sea.

 

The rainbow came slowly:

black

         white

                   red

                         yellow

                                     green

and, only sometimes, on to blue.

 

Color is cultural, my translator friend explains -

robin’s egg blue’s as unknown to Germans

as angel blue is meaningless here.

In Namibia, the Himba cannot see

a blue square among green;

and though I stare a long time,

I find no difference in the one green

that leaps out at them from a field of sameness.

In Vietnam, the leaves and their backdrop of sky

are tinted the same:  xanh.

The words we say shape the colors we see.

 

But blue, having entered your life,

            haunts you,

until you would do the unthinkable:

            find yourself deep in the Sar-i-Sang mine of Badakshan, grinding rocks

                       of lapis lazuli

             or paint yourself with Egyptian blue like Amun til you can fly,

                        imperceptible, cloaked in sky

            or stud your canvas with tiny shards of pulverized cobalt glass:  smalt

            or pay more than gold for the blue from the other side of the sea:

                        ultramarine

            or ferment the dayflower, or indigo, or turnsole, or

                        Isatis tinctoria

                                    woad, a common mustard:

                                    First, you must drink for days,

                                    store up a vat of alcoholic piss,

                                    soak the leaves there for a solid week of hot stench,

                                    add the fabric, soak longer in the sun til all is rank,

                                    with still no hint of blue.

                                    On faith you pull the cloth out,

                                    the rainbow flashing instantly through the weft:

                                                yellow

                                                            green

                                                                      oxidizing

                                                                                       finally

                                                                                                  blue.

 

In Italy only the tintori di guado had license to dye a blue bolt,

but you and I may conjure any blue we choose:

 

royal baby sky navy cerulean turquoise midnight bruise Prussian delphinium gentian kingfisher forget-me-not pool mandrill shadow hyacinth penstemon glacier iris siren jay gorgonzola starlight Mediterranean iridescent hydrangea budgerigar aster juniper curaçao flax lightning vein

 

deeper and deeper we sink

into this crushed velvet dream of

celestial waves,

counting ourselves lucky

to see them and name them at all,

like everything else that is.

 

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