Synesthesia (Previously Published*)

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.

*at in 2010

About Ray Sharp

Poet, endurance athlete, retired public health planner
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2 Responses to Synesthesia (Previously Published*)

  1. authormbeyer says:

    Love your poem. Here’s an observation from a fellow synesthete, the word “love” always appears red to me. But of the words in your poem, “plumes” looks purple because “p” is always purple and it is the first letter. “Roe” is orange, because for some reason “R” is always a sort of burnt orange color and the yellow “o” makes the word a brighter orange. But none of the letters in the word “love” are red by themselves. “L” is silver-blue, “o” is sunshine yellow, “v” is blue-violet, and “e” is usually green and sometimes orange. How does that add up to red? Being a synesthete is not only impossible to explain to those who are not, but it doesn’t make much sense to me either. It has merely always been that way. I love the way you wove the synesthesia experience into this poem.

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