If you’ve followed this series in years past, you’ve seen a few poems from Adam Holt before. He’s one of my colleagues and critique group members (we usually work on fiction in that group), but he also writes some really lovely poetry.
His poem “Cerulean,” tonight’s featured poem, was recently used as inspiration for a piece of visual art in the Color:Story Exhibition.
When the poet grows older
He can no longer tell the girl that her eyes
are the color of old world cerulean.
He must instead drink cerulean
And lay in the noonday sun
Until it glistens on his skin.
Or he must run steam through the color
And drink the rich effluence
Until his heart nearly explodes.
But if he were to try to tell the girl of her eyes, he would say:
Your eyes were a color but I will not say its name.
Your eyes were the weight of fog.
Your eyes were the Mediterranean the morning you left
And did not want to.
The ancient Greeks did not have a name for this color,
So why should I say it?
They could not process indigo to create it
So their painters, who knows how their mosaics looked?
And the poets?
They called the water wine-dark,
And they did not mean the Mediterranean was the color of wine.
No, it was the motion and feeling and texture,
no one in any era needs to speak the true color of the wine-dark sea.
It is not the same from one beach to the next.
Two people stare into the water —
the billionaire on his yacht
and the refugee boarding a raft —
Opulence and desperation are the colors of their seas,
And those are not the color I see.
Therefore I will never name you nor the color of your eyes
To another living soul.
They drown me in dreams
I wake up gasping for breath.
Glad I do not have to board any boat
but this memory.
That is how the old poet thinking young tries to say the color of her eyes,
Wide and wonderful as they were and are and ever more shall be.
It would be nice, I think sometimes, to go back to the way it was before
when I employed words
rather than today
when I allow words I never speak
to repurpose me for their own goals.
They’ve taken on too much power,
Or I’ve given it to them willingly because I know
Their beauty outshines my purposes.
when no one is listening
in the deep watches of the night
On a train ride down the coast
A train, not a boat, where we both do our best thinking
I may someday whisper
Into the still air
The color of your eyes. Listen for it, dear.
Only I trust
You will hear whatever color you most need to hear.
Whatever you heard, here is what I spoke:
Adam Holt is a novelist, singer-songwriter, and poet. He was a featured poet for the
Houston Public Library’s Public Poetry Series, and most recently his work was featured in the Color:Story2019 art exhibition. Lone Star Rambler is the name of his band, and their album Stars and Wonder was released in 2017. The Tully Harper Series, his YA sci-fi series, is a near-future novel meant to inspire young readers’ interest in human space exploration. He is as an instructor at Writespace and The Kinkaid School. He lives in Houston, Texas. More info on his work: http://adamholtwrites.com