December 2011

On Trying to Recall a Color’s Name

Vermillion started it—a thousand
times the hue of life—and taupe
or fuchsia. Complicated memory
and the syllables of spectra
too much a failure again
of a language which, in its quest
to name a shade, loses its way,
gains weight of intent. So then
not teal, not aquamarine—a spring
sign, an electric growth—
new hosta, novelty sliver, algae
in a humid sun—I sound maroon,
but it fails, too. A memory seldom
greens beyond its first slate rush,
and sepia we learn after we know it—
and the neurons burn, the char,
the vivid truce of the mind,
how suffused with crimson now used
to feel the hue recalled: chartreuse.