Stained Glass Synaesthesia

June 24, 2016

This week I’ve been especially self-indulgent, writing poetry for the first time in over a year. I’ve been playing around with colors a lot in my spare time, so I decided to rewrite a poem I’d written years ago that is entirely about color. For the first time, I’ve accomplished a long-standing goal of pilfering gemstones from the Book of Revelations for their exotic colors.

The result is an unfinished poem in ballad meter – seven feet (in most, but not all of the lines) for  the seven colors of the spectrum and the seven notes of the scale. Unfortunately, the missing word that makes it an unfinished poem is probably the most important word in the poem. I guess you’ll have to use your imagination.

The poem calls for a fictitious adjective, one syllable long, that aptly modifies what Daniil Kharms called verses that “have become a thing, and one can take them off the page and throw them at a window, and the window would break.”


A __ projectile word destroyed the great Cathedral window’s glass;
and scattering, the shattering of colors stirred the winds and brass.
The players wake, first tuning on a prism’s white palette,
then finding out a melody, beginning with garnet.
A hyacinthine accidental note – the curtains rise –
and with the strings bright symphonies of lights materialize.
The ancient world, its sea green bays, appear upon the stage,
a city’s honey-colored walls, besieged, a husband’s rage:
a minor third beats rose gold into Priam’s tempered bronze –
then from the sixth, upon diffuse white scales the cellos pause.
Venetian blue the bannered sky, saffron the grit below,
For pity’s sake no lover dies – a duel is overthrown;
The purple blood of Menelaus stains ivory thighs pale red.
The rose quartz arms of lovers touch again in languid dread.
An opaline caesura lifts the scene to other shores:
the brassy pink of twilit ponds disturbed by insect oars.
The sphinx moth mauve of bruises left by Leda’s magic swan
disturbs the lozenge blue of summer skies at break of dawn.
The ground is painted evenly in Cleopatra’s green –
Swinburne’s red rose blooms, glistening, the dew aquamarine.
The black green of a peacock’s breast arrives with much fanfare,
a jockey’s wood duck orange sport coat, a gleaming chestnut mare,
chrysanthemum gold sleeves, parrot blue flags – the gates fly up,
and pangolin gold fillies chase a Scythian gold cup.
Easter egg pink ladies’ hats turn, giddy, in the stands;
the winner’s burgundy shirt speaks of knightly caravans.
The indigo of iris blooms then shutters up the sky,
and all’s obscured but lightning bolts that dazzle low and high.
The silvered grey of Spanish moss emerges from the gloom –
the mist gives way to Mandarin red poppy fields in bloom.
There Aztec orange crowds oriole’s breast golds and Monarchs’ wings
confuse the ocher panoply of bright like-colored things.
The scarlets of Florence, a cantaloupe pink –
but again the scene vanishes. Dogwood stars wink.
A kite blue field – the redbud cheeks of saints now reappear,
their violet cloaks, gilt haloes and a halcyon blue tear.
The bearded purple of an orchid’s tongue describes the throne –
upon it, in a turquoise light, the son of God is shown.
A watermelon carpet is laid out beneath his feet,
and bottlenose blue bishops bow before him on their knees.
Beside him, in a lion’s bed of elm spring green, there lies
a lamb, beluga white, with nodding umber colored eyes.
Then first and last there blazons forth the trumpets’ call to war:
a city made of gems takes shape as prophesied before
with brecciated jasper walls of blood red heart shaped stones
and sapphires brimming with light. Inside each, white stars shone –
beyond them spread a chalcedony edifice of clouds
and emerald gates that burned from inside scarab green glass shrouds.
A banded black sardonyx arch rose past them, deep and wide,
with honeyed red sardius stones towering alongside.
A chrysolyte watchtower glowed like white wine, set within
a golden beryl curtain wall with steep and polished plinths.
Then smoky columns of topaz burned, striated with light,
and past them chrysoprasus ramparts rose, green facets bright.
At last the tangerine red jacinth buttresses were met
with amethysts, their glassy purple lattices uncut.
The strange twelve-sided citadel is gone before the sound
of trumpets fades into the bells that peal, cascading down
a silvery arpeggio that rings with Christmas cheer.
A grace note like a swallow’s tail trips toward the crystal clear
high octave’s ruby crowning note – the flutes then light upon
a major fifth cut from the fourth with mallard green élan.
The particolored planets dance with stars to harpists’ chords
and candlelight processions come upon the ocean’s shores
to twinkle at the cusp of glassy breakers and white foam,
anticipating twilight’s warmth, a reddish or blue roan.
The darkness just before the dawn then overtakes the scene;
no light transfixes what remains of the rose window’s green
and indigo and violet shards of glass – the orange and blue
lie darkling over red and yellow fragments, drained of hue.

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