Six of Hearts: Synaesthete’s blues

Sixes of hearts featuring a yellow-headed blackbird, a dunkelbrauner bläuling, and some blue lettersTwo vodka oranges ’cause now I’ve got the blues
I cannot see the letters in the colours that you choose.

To start, the way you write your S
imparts a way-too-bright fluoresc-
ence, but it is for you, synes-
thete, near enough to true finesse.

‘Twould not be such a foreign ges-
ture, if it were an orange S,
but it’s a sin for you, es-
thete, saying it’s a blue S.

Two votes to orange S ’cause now I’ve got the blue S,
I cannot see your letter S in the colours of the true S.


This one’s for all you grapheme-colour synaesthetes out there. I expect some comments protesting that the letter S is green, or something.

I didn’t plan my time at all well this weekend, so it’s pretty rough, and pretty short, with several recycled lines. But I could say that all the rhythmic imperfections were on purpose, to make:

‘Twould not be such a foreign ges-
ture, if it were an orange S,

the most natural-sounding part. It was also the first part I wrote. Well, what kind of poet would I be if I didn’t rhyme with ‘orange’ at least once in my life?

Early in the week I noticed that two of the cards were of creatures with contradicting colours in their names: the yellowheaded blackbird, and a butterfly whose German name means something like, ‘dark brown blueling’. So I thought about writing something about things being the wrong colour. But I couldn’t think what, and eventually came up with an idea for something involving beauty, as the CERN six of spades is about the LHCb experiment, whose aim is to learn more about ‘beauty’ quarks.

Before I’d really fleshed that idea out, a friend looked at the cards of the week and suggested I write something about the butterfly, whose name, apparently, seems more like that of a mushroom. So I went back to my ‘the wrong colour’ idea. I still didn’t know what to write about. When I got home after midnight on Sunday morning, I had a look at the S fridge-magnet, and saw that it was indeed the wrong colour. I’ve always associated the letter S with red or orange. So I thought I’d write something humorous about two synaesthetes arguing about what colour some letters were, or a synaesthetic signwriter’s lament that he has to paint the letters in the ‘wrong’ colours.

I went to bed, and wrote the stanza with the ‘orange’ rhyme the next morning. At that point, I still wasn’t sure which of the two ideas I’d use. Then some friends invited me to go to the Montreux Jazz Festival, and I decided I could write the poem while listening to jazz, and hastily type it in if we arrived home before midnight.

It turns out that a jazz festival is not actually the best place to write a poem. I wrote the first two lines while listening to a Brazilian group, and started writing the rest while listening to a competition, before some people I knew turned up and ruined everything (in the nicest way.) Then I polished it a bit while typing in what I had in the last twenty minutes before midnight. I had intended to write more, but now I’m not really sure what I would have written.

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  1. King of Diamonds: Anniversary cards « Writing Cards and Letters
  2. Eight of Spades: The Synaesthetist « Creative Output

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