Here’s to the synaesthetes, those angels
who express what we so long suspected:
that cello music is a velvety blue or purple
and that the flute trills the cleanest yellow.
I want to say that one is heavy and the other light.
The cello has you nesting your bones
amongst the roots of trees;
the flute delights in making you fly.

Now, I’m not a synaesthete, although the doctors
say almost everyone is, but that most learn to sublimate it
because it is devastating when the word ‘white’ tastes
like marmite and you are eating ice cream.
Well, I’m not sure what words taste of
but stars taste of metal (don’t you think?)
and mountain air tastes like stars
and the green of new grass tastes
like blowing raspberries on the belly of a child.

Not that I’m a synaesthete, but the doctors say
almost everyone is and they reckon words came
like this: a synaesthetic expression of the facts of life.
And I want to say the word ‘fish’ and see it swimming off
with its scaly body and a watery flick of its tail.
And I want to say ‘axe’ and hear it cleave the wood.
And I want to say ‘sky’ and fly up there so light and blue.

Not that I have synaesthesia of course, though the doctors say
almost everyone has and they also say that synaesthetes
are not nuts after all, since it’s obvious peanuts taste yellow,
cashew nuts green and brazil nuts a purple-brown,
and what do doctors taste of anyway if not pine needles?



Posted for Sally from Art and Soul Space in response to her blog post about hearing a storm from looking at the colours of  an abstract painting.

14 thoughts on “Synaesthesia

  1. Belinda! Thank you!! Completely gorgeous.
    You’ve expanded my world this morning
    into a light yellow cascade
    a deep velvety brown rich
    poetic vision
    landscape of possibility.
    I love love love this.

  2. PS We need to find someone who has chewed on a doctor to confirm the pine needles proposition. I’m not sure that I’m game.
    PPS Love: The cello has you nesting your bones
    amongst the roots of trees
    PPPS I will see if I can link my post to yours in return (I’ve not done this before).

    1. Looks like the link worked. There is a little box to tick that will make it open in a new tab. I usually use that so people can get back o me by going to the tab. Yours opens in the same tab. You can edit it, if you want.
      yes, the doctor was a bit of fancy (like the rest of it wasn’t!) to end the poem. Makes it a good performance poem.
      Thanks for the link 🙂

  3. This is great, Belinda. Nice to find a fellow ‘sufferer’! I genuinely thought I was very odd and kept quiet about it (didn’t know what ‘it’ was) until a friend tried to tell me that ‘A’ was yellow …

    1. Hi Robyn, it’s fascinating, I think. I don’t have it really: the white/marmite thing is from a doco. But the rest of it I just sort of made up, but it was terribly easy to do so, so I expect I am one of the ones who ‘sublimate’ it. In the doco they were saying we all have it when we are born, just some of us don’t unlearn it. It can be really hard for some sensitive souls. Can you imagine how loud a city at night with all those flashing colours could be? I think we loose a lot of our innate knowledge in the first few years, as we are ‘domesticated’ (as the Toltec call it).
      What happens for you?

      1. I’m sure that’s true, Belinda. For me, numbers, letters and words had colours associated really strongly with them, and it has always been immediate to see taste and smell connected with other senses like colours, shapes and sounds. I have a friend who is a jewellery artist, and she finds it distressing if she sees a number or letter written in the ‘wrong’ colour. For her it’s very strong, but I think mine has declined over the years, and I’m sad about that. Perhaps academic thinking knocked some of it out of me! But, as your poem shows, it seems to be a very poetic sensibility.

        1. No, not at all. My friend thought it was yellow and the reason I ‘came out’ was that I was so convinced it was red. It seems to be quite individual, which is intriguing, isn’t it?

    1. Hi Harvey. Sorry so long responding. Life has been hectic lately. Do you see the shapes while playing as well as listening? Are they different? And how about between playing the guitar and the cello? Must be.
      We were talking to a sculptor (years ago in Hungary) when some one asked him, ‘What is the distance between working in wood and working in bronze.’ (Distance: art-speak of the time) and he answered, ‘The distance is the same as the distance between wood and bronze.’

      1. Hi There! 🙂
        yes i see them on both playing and listening music- and they also seem the same… although when i play i see them much much detailed. its also a bit different on guitar but not that much

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