Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Shades of Red


Shades of Red

A man will tell you
if you say
The dress was coral
that he doesn’t know
what color that is.
It’s a funny joke
that a man can’t identify
shades of ruby, rose or russet.
Don’t specify
cadmium, crimson,
carmine or cardinal
or burden him
with the fiery folly of mauve,
maroon and magenta;
these will topple him
into a raspberry of despair;
you won’t get to his heart
through his stomach
describing anything as
candy apple, cherry,
tangerine or strawberry.
Just call it red.
You and I know
it doesn’t mean he
doesn’t care about the dress;
it may mean he doesn’t understand
the subtle species of your feelings
separated into seed packets
in the complex filing
system of your spirit;
it means he would like
you to hit the broad red
side of the barn
with your meaning
so that he can love you
with his strong brick red heart.

May 2012


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

This is witty, eye-luscious, chromatically lascivious and, ultimately, in those memorable closing lines, quite knowing and insightful, as it takes the reader from a frolic on the warm redshifted side of the artist’s palette to the very inside of inter-painterly relations (or something like that).

The Bug said...

I love it - it's so very true! Mike & I used to argue about whether a particular dress I had was electric blue or purple. Now we just slide our eyes sideways at each other & smile.

Maureen said...

Oh, those last six lines!

A splendid visual palette, a poem full of fun and warmth and truth.

For those of us with husbands who are color-blind, this is especially wonderful.

ellen abbott said...

A friend of mine used to point at the sky and ask...what color is that?

Babs-beetle said...

This is so true of most men. My father spoke in artist's paint colours, like cadmium red, vermilion, cobalt blue, yellow ochre and the like :)

Kathleen said...

Love this!--the subtle variations and the smacks!

Jean Spitzer said...

Wonderfully said.

George said...

Wonderful and entertaining, Ruth! Vocabularies of the heart vary from person to person, and its the rare moment when we fully understand one another. Shades of red are as subtle and varied as the moods of the heart.

And a big hello to our mutual friend, LORENZO. Nice to see you back tramping through the blogosphere.

hedgewitch said...

This one had me smiling all the way through--and quite a luscious list of shades, too. I think most men would totally understand using different words to describe the different colors of red of various cars, though. As you say, it's about how the seed packets are filed. Delightful stuff, Ruth.

erin said...

the ending caught me up with a sudden fist, ruth. i can't help but smile.


Brendan said...

Men. Turn red to pink and paint some nipples with it and you'll have 'em forever in thrall. Fine distinction between the pointillism of articulated color and the broad strokes of the monochrome. Well, as the Impressionists said, "viva la difference!" (Did they say that? I mean, what did they have Toulouse?) - Brendan

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, thanks for being such a good sport with my play. And your delightful comment just shows that men (and women) come at relationships from a wide spectrum of color-understanding. Take physicists and mathematicians, for example, who know about redshift and blueshift. That sort of precise knowledge can either challenge a relationship (if the other is painfully ignorant), or make it a whole lot of fun, when the two are at least on the same wavelength. :-)

Ruth said...

Dana, that sounds like quite a dress, and a colorful stepping stone toward long term understanding.

Maureen, thanks so much. I'm glad I am not alone in this relational "divide".

Ellen, ahh yes, the artist-as-color-expert. Don't you love it?

Ruth said...

Babs, abundant thanks for introducing your artist father into my generalisation about men. :-)

Kathleen, I'm glad you love it. And by "smacks" do you mean tenderly loving pats?

Jean, as an artist I imagine you are forever explaining the difference between umber and sienna, and not only to men.

The Unknowngnome said...

Well done Ruthie. I got a great chuckle out of this. :)

Ruth said...

George, you are kind to be entertained by my fond stab at relational differences between men and women, and wise to recognize how varied we all are, regardless of gender category. I'm reminded of a story Don's dad told, from his shopping center construction days. He was making his supervisory rounds with a store manager and observed that the color a painter was painting the walls was "a nice pink." The big burly painter spoke up with particular indignation: "That's not pink, that's hibiscus."

And oh yes, isn't it grand to see our true blue friend Lorenzo in a few of his various shades?

Ruth said...

Hedge, you make a fine point about most men and the colors of cars: it's all about what we observe with our attention. I, for one, need a great deal of explaining when it comes to anything mechanical, no matter what color it is. Such complexity has nowhere to go in my mechanical pea brain.

erin, I'm glad for the smile, and if I understand you right (and we both women!), the fist. :-)

Brendan, your comment reminded me of that movie with Gene Wilder "The Woman in Red" for some reason. And then I thought of Spencer Tracy in "Adam's Rib" . . . well lots of movies with him and Katherine Hepburn, where the differences between women and men are deliciously laughed at, and now seem anachronistic. But really, how much has changed? Thanks.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Gnome, I'm glad you enjoyed my bit of fun.

James Owens said...

it's a strange thing -- the result of a life spent (wasted?) in books -- i know every one of these names for shades of red, and have no idea what most of actual colors look like ...

the ending is true and fine, a living arterial red :-)

Ruth said...

James, after your comment I changed the line to "that a man can't identify" (was "name")... etc. When I was young, I hated reading 19th century novels because I did not understand what the terms meant, and no one showed me how to find them out. I think it is a fine accomplishment just to know that these words indicate red. To identify the hues and shades they symbolize is something very few of us who are not artists could do, I'm afraid. I think that I should more often write a preamble to a poem, though I'm grateful for the further conversation in comments. Thank you for joining the fun.

Lorna Cahall said...

I just love this - totally get it and I do have a guy with a "strong brick heart."

Ruth said...

Lorna, hear, hear! for understanding, and for strong brick red hearts!

Grandmother said...

I've had this very conversation with my Honey any number of times. But why do you need so many names of colors? he asks. I'll read him this to explain and he'll love me with his brick red heart.

musicwithinyou said...

Red just says it all doesn't it?

for some reason your poem made me think about Shakespeare's Sonnet 130. I had to memorize it for a class.

"My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red, than her lips red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet by heaven, I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare."



Ruth said...

Hi, Mary. I do hope my poem can be a source of unity and understanding. Thank you!

Music, oh thank you for sharing the Bard's sonnet with red and roses. Perfect!

HELENA, oh dear, I see what you mean. I've seen my links at others' blogs too, and it must be terribly annoying to have that long list of links to my blog at the bottom of posts. I think it is easily remedied if you:

Go to Blogger dashboard
Posts and Comments
Hide backlinks

I hope that works! In the meantime, sadly I have stopped following you, hoping that will take immediate effect.

Arti said...

You know, I've long been thinking about these dichotomies... Mars and Venus kind of differences. Guess they're going to stay, no matter what we name them, but yes, finding new names and symbols for them are interesting enough, like what you offer here. I've never thought of using the notion of the various shades of red for the distinction. Now, you've created one more image.

GailO said...

Fun to read from beginning to end and I could imagine that this one was fun to write too!

Ginnie said...

I LOVE IT! I'm sure there are lots of smiles all around on this one, Ruth. :)

Margaret said...

I can't even begin to tell you HOW much I enjoyed this. I am printing this out for my daughter (the artist) to put inside the cover of her new sketch book. Thank you, Ruth.

Margaret said...

...I am waiting for you book of Poetry Ruth. !!!!

Barbara Bell said...

Like all of the above posters, I loved this poem, because it reminded me of my late husband's comment "I only know one shade of white..."

On the other hand, did you know there are many, many kinds of hammers? LOL!