It spoke in colors, and I couldn’t understand.
I wouldn’t understand.
That was the first command they beat into us when we took our oaths and donned our robes.
We would not see colors,
we would not know them,
we would not name them,
we would not claim them,
but all the same, it spoke to me in colors!
I’ve spent a lifetime in service to the masses,
I’ve taught classes on the way they cling to inks and dyes
I bid them close their eyes,
I’ve told them red and blue were lies,
that truths were better spoken than seen,
That truth can’t be trusted if it’s green.
I made them clean their brushes, erase the shapes, and above all else
to forsake the shades and stick to black and white
and then it spoke to me in colors.
I’ve worked so hard, I’ve spent a lifetime bent over books,
Teasing what I knew was truth from if and therefores,
sure that if I had a chance to speak to god, it would thrill in my vocabulary
That I would carry many more tablets than ten, all full of gilded words – I’d hold them up
And everyone would know me as a sage.
That I had spent a life well waged
But it spoke to me in colors
If only I had missed the meeting
If I had turned away, instead of greeting god with misty eyes and certain sighing.
Then at least, I’d have my knowing. I’d have my dictionary overflowing
With all the words I care to muster, all the sounds I care to hear.
But there were circles where there should have been similes.
There were faces smiling where there should have been rhetorical styling, oratorial mastery – that is my god – these words overpower us – they command us to listen – we listen – we have to listen – we speak and listen and listen and speak and write and read, and then we die, and that is a life well-lived.
But God cared nothing for my words. Instead, it spoke to me in color.
And now I’m left a life I know to be a tragedy.
And I could try to change – to speak in blue and symmetry
But all my peers would turn on me.
I’d lose my friends, my property, my post, but what would hurt the most
I’d lose myself.
I‘d lose the knowing.
I’d lose the certain overflowing from my every syllable.
And even though it spoke to me in color,
I’d rather live a life of broken phonemes as a scholar than turn to those who trusted me and tell them I was wrong about their azure skies; the lies were in the words – the colors tried to show them all along – the yellows tried to comfort, purples tried to know them.
Instead, I’ll sell my god of colors for a song.
I recognize that you will despise me, that there is nothing so vile as a hypocrite, there are few who know better than I the meaning: charlatan, mountebank, phony, imposter, cheat, dissembler, pharisee.
I know it’s a lie, but I have to survive. I will cling to my words till the day that I die. I will cling to comfort and quiet repose, tranquility, succor peace, and knowing that words are the start and end of the story. I will read, and I’ll take inventory of certain and sure and established and definite. Exact and explicit and fixed and specific.
These are my gods, not daydreams of color.
Experience fades, but certainty lingers.
© 2021, Aaron Zimmerman. All rights reserved.