When did salmon become a color?

Around the same time peach and pistachio did,

I imagine.  Their thingness provides a solidity

to the tones, as any noun brings

a shape to experience.

Red, blue, yellow, pink, green, purple, orange.

The words label the visual quality

without reference to something

colored just so, only abstract blobs.

Yet wasn’t it Kant who said

you can’t imagine colors – or anything –

without the characteristic of extension

in space and time?

Kant’s cookie cutters, the forms of perception.

I remember painting dormitory rooms one summer.

The colors, institutional pastels,

beige and turquoise and light green,

identified by names like

A-17 and P-63 and T-11.

The numbers stressed

the essentially utilitarian,

unaesthetic value of the tints and shades,

the prison cells for students.

So why not nouns for shades of color?

Why not verbs, adverbs, adjectives?

Green, blue and red are adjectives, after all.

How about a gerund, like “participating”?

Might be a good name for a color.

“The wall was a dark shade of participating,”

my wife recalled, describing her sister’s new home,

“but the ceiling was a pale administration

with recovery trimming.”

Prepositions to classify Crayola

crayon colors – into and over,

within and atop.  Besides, under, upon.

Three kinds of “oh yeah.”

An endless glissando of piano keys.

The Champion of the World

Ryfka tells the story

of the glorious black man running

in the Englische Garten in München

by the Eisbach, the manmade river

in the sprawling urban park.

He stopped to talk to her,

she a sixteen-year-old girl at the time,

walked a ways through the park together,

then he shook her hand, boarded

the guarded limo that was waiting for him,

flashing a big smile at her.

Only then did Ryfka realize

she’d been with Muhammad Ali,

there to fight Richard Dunn

just seven months after the Thrillah in Manila.

Dunn would be Ali’s last knockout

He’d fight seven more times,

losing three, before retiring,

but none of this mattered to Ryfka.

She only knew she’d failed

to recognize the man

her father, who’d suffered

through World War II,

had admired so much

when his name was Cassius Clay.

The champion of the world.


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