Welcome to this month’s poetry classroom, with poet Paula J. Lambert, author of The Sudden Seduction of Gravity. We invite you to respond to the poems we’ll share here—their forms, images, sounds, meanings, surprises—ask questions of Paula and each other, and write your own poems along the way.
The Hypochondriac’s Question to the Woman with Synesthesia
If seven is blue,
what’s dark blue, indigo, navy?
Is six-and-a-half a cloud-filled sky?
The pain in my side is an empty house.
There’s nobody home. The pain is here,
on my left. My ribcage is a birdcage.
There’s a sparrow inside. The doctor
doesn’t understand. I thought you might.
I heard you say your doorbell smells
like bacon. Mine smells like a wound.
It doesn’t ring very often. It smells like
undressing. Not taking off your clothes—
like lifting a bandage. Like stagnation
and healing at the same time.
If seven is blue, what’s dark blue, indigo,
melancholy? Sometimes what smells
sweet is so sweet I can feel the sticky
on my fingers. Sometimes burnt toast
makes me cry. The doctor doesn’t
understand. The nurse just purses
her lips. I thought it seemed like,
maybe, you’d understand.
The pain in my chest is a birdcage. There’s
a sparrow inside. When we were children,
we were taught to shoot sparrows in the
barn. It was how we brought down flight.
A barn is a big empty house. There’s
nobody home but the sparrow inside.
I wondered, could you tell me, if the number
seven is blue, how do you calculate sky?