I have drunk from mountain streams the color of veins
in skin like milk, where my tongue burned with the cold of it
and my insides hummed and my flesh could not recoil,
I have eaten plums as dark as pools, the slippery skin
the color of the eyes of goblins, the color of metal trapped in glass,
the color of water stained with salt and weeds when the sun
goes blank as a coin and does not shine. If you take the copper
of my tongue and the nickel of my fingernails and burn them
until they gleam you will get the color. It is the color of bottles
tied to trees and set to swinging with the souls of ghosts, the color
of splendid orchids painted with the finest brush, the color
of steel in sunlight under a clear sky. It is the color
of drowned girls. In sleeping I see this color, forget how to drink
and how my teeth smell, how to unclasp my hands from dreams.
It is the color of longing. It is the color of water in the desert,
when our hearts have grown dry and dizzy, when our teeth
have grown sharp enough to cut the soil and each other,
when our tongues have grown too small to taste or speak.
They say there are shades of blue so deep that they will poison you,
oases of blankness and blue rot, something from which you cannot
surface. It is the color of stars as they hurtle towards us, the color
of thirst. It is the color of stones in water, the way they shine
with a darkness that dryness robs them of, so that you keep them
in glasses of the sea forever, watch them shimmer and stroke
their smooth, wave-ridden backs. Try to catch this color, try to hold it
under your tongue like ice: you cannot: it eludes you still: it is the glint
in the eye of maidens who slip smooth-legged and bare-stomached
into the water and do not return.
Margaret Wack is a writer, poet, and classicist whose work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Twisted Moon, Silver Blade, and others. More can be found at margaretwack.com.