Prompt Wednesday: Color Poem


Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Tonya Peterson, an English major at Lewis University. Tonya is interning with the Jet Fuel Review this semester and will be contributing blog posts periodically.

What if I asked to describe to me your color? The first thought would be ethnicity and the descriptions would be an array of stereotypical descriptions of skin color. It seems that color, in direction relation to people, is still synonymous with race.  Society defines us by our race and often times we find that definition expressed in that flat description of skin color. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous phrase asks individuals to look beyond the color of skin and instead judge a person based on the “content of their character.” So when we take society’s convention of identifying people by race and juxtapose it against a color wheel, can the significance of color be lessened? Now I am not saying that race and racism are not significant issues, nor do I pretend to have a magical band-aid fix for society’s rush to judgment based on ethnicity and skin color; rather I am asking you to take a step back.

For this writing prompt, I am taking a step away from preconceived notions, stereotypes and judgments and instead picking colors — yes plural, colors — and painting myself in shades from the color wheel.  So, the first thing that needs to be done is name all the colors you know, every shade that means something to you or that has a connection to how you feel and who you are. Then pick as many colors as you like to define who you are and how you feel. Let your emotions find a vibrancy that is in colors. Grab a crayon box and let’s see how creative we can be when we are in charge of our own color.

green: emerald, jade, olive,                         red: cherry, crimson, burgundy

yellow: blonde, golden, dandelion,             orange: ginger, peach, apricot,

blue: indigo, cornflower, cerulean,             brown: burnt sienna, tree bark,

black: coal,  midnight                                     white: crystal, cotton, scrim, opaque

Here is the self-portrait I wrote using the whole spectrum of colors:

Self Portrait

Color me indigo because

a blasting cap falls from

the depth of my corn-

flower ripples:  in

creases around naval

oranges; it takes root

in the coals of back alley

dumpsters where dandelion

try to wrap around ankles

like a small battalion of

violet mercenaries, I poured

ginger, olive, cherry –all  to

mask a glow from midnight

neon lights, striations

avalanche jade rivulets

of tree bark shouldering

in a neck of opaque

glass linen  too fragile

to break, a wheel tumbles

off the edge of a burnt

sienna window frame.

— Tonya Peterson

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