Tuesday, January 27, 2009
The Problem of Describing Color
Snow fell on Kentucky last night. This morning, I looked out the bedroom window and saw a cardinal perched in the apple tree. There is always one or two in the winter; but the small blot of color against all the white seemed especially beautiful. It reminded me of this poem by Robert Hass which begins with a similar observation.
THE PROBLEM OF DESCRIBING COLOR
If I said - remembering in summer,
The cardinal’s sudden smudge of red
In the bare gray winter woods -
If I said, red ribbon on the cocked straw hat
Of the girl with pooched-out lips
Dangling a wiry lapdog
In the painting by Renoir -
If I said fire, if I said blood welling from a cut -
Or flecks of poppy in the tar-grass scented summer air
On a wind-struck hillside outside Fano -
If I said, her one red earring tugging at her silky lobe,
If she tells fortunes with a deck of falling leaves
Until it comes out right -
Rouged nipple, mouth -
(How could you not love a woman
Who cheats at Tarot?)
Red, I said. Sudden, red.
**** UPDATE 2/2
The snow that fell last Monday night turned into ice and freezing rain Tuesday and Wednesday causing significant damage, and leaving 700,000 in the dark statewide. My cardinal began to seem more and more trival as the week went on. Today, my thoughts turn to my fellow Kentuckians who are without power and/or stranded at home. Hang in there!