Persons with synesthesia experience “extra” sensations.  The letter T may be navy blue; a sound can taste like pickles. Vladimir Nabakov and his mother were synesthetes; Kandinsky claimed to be; Scriabin and Rimsky-Korsakov disagreed on the colors of given notes and musical keys. For most people synesthesia is ineffable: that which by definition cannot be imparted to others or adequately put into words.  It may be impossible for science to scrutinize such phenomena whose qualities must be experienced first-hand.  As also with Love.




Love: the fact of love,

the animal Love alone

distinct from its habitat:


its fur and fins and plumes,

appetites and scents, coloration

and camouflage, quaint rituals


and annoying habits

and odd and startling sounds;

its slippery roe and sticky afterbirth,


the way it glistens dewy

in the soft morning light

or is the dew itself,


condensation of exhaled dreams.




The metallic sheen of L,

the smells and tastes of o and e,

the muscular feel of v,


oh the texture, the shape, of V:

arms upstretched or legs astride—

what colors do you see


in the field behind your eyes?

Do poppies bloom, do crimson fish

swim the blue-green sea?


The colors I see are not

colors of pigment,

they are light brilliant


and gem-like.  I do not

have a true purple letter

or number


and I wish I did.




Last year I discovered that H had under certain rare circumstances

the ability to become shiny brass.


And my plain gray X one day suddenly became a delicious salmon

when I saw the name of an English town, Ixworth.





            when the north sky

                        thrummed green waves


of whalebone and bassoon

            through our chests

                        ’till our very bones buzzed



            How the cold starlight

                        sang spindrift and


menthol melodies?

            The sweet vanilla

                        of Jeffrey pine,


the fresh spring wind

            and melting snow?

                        Do you believe in love


at first smell?




Last night I dreamt of mangoes

sweet-orange dripping down

your arms and chin.


In we dove

splashed and drifted

and walked the wave-worn beach—


kelpy tide-line snake

and white sand drying

on sunburned feet.


I still taste salt

air, still see

sets of waves rolling


’cross the page.

I still feel mangoey-orange

this blue-gray day.




Your name, Raymond, she said, tastes like chocolate.




I wake to starlight

after eight days

of snow.


Your name calls me,

Wendy, in the

northeast sky—



two Vs joined

like you and I


hand in hand,

W that sings

silken purple.


So this is the color of Love.


About Ray Sharp

Father, poet, triathlete, local public health planner
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13 Responses to Synesthesia

  1. Maggie Grace says:

    I am so mesmerized by your writing and the beautiful descriptions of the crossed senses. So very lovely and wonderful!

  2. brian miller says:

    ha. i love when you break the word down and talk about each letter….smiles…your name tasting like chocolate…hot…the two vv’s like me and you….very cool verse sir…

  3. Wonderful shifting perspective throughout. So many different ways to look at this subject.

    Being color-blind, I have often wondered what effect that might have on one person’s synesthetic perceptions versus another’s. Another prompt now simmers on yet another back-burner. Thank you!
    (believe it or not, the Quang Duc piece still simmers as well…)

  4. That resonates. I have synethsesia.

  5. grapeling says:

    beautifully drawn, Ray ~ M

  6. Tony Maude says:

    Wonderful writing, Ray. I don’t have synaesthesia, but I have a friend who does. You’ve helped me to see a little more what her life is like.

  7. Ok, Ray – First, you are either in my head or my mailbox. Either is ok. Just wanted you to know the level of understanding here. Second – the sound of the word groceries has the texture and vague taste of fresh pears in my mouth. I never knew about either of these things until now. Incredible!

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