Friday, August 24, 2012

Grains of Sand

This poem had just been shortlisted in a Friends of the Earth competition, Earthwords, and will appear in an anthology (details of how to obtain this when I know!)
Synchronistically, this exquisite photo was posted on Fb by Clare Turner, and the photographer gave me permission to attach it to the poem on my blog. The only colour not in the poem is the blue spiral that unifies them all...I think these photographs could inspire a lot more poetry!
This poem was inspired by being in the desert in Arizona last year and seeing the plants and plant dyes used by the Navajo people for their weaving. That combined with a fragment of poetry I'd written years ago when idly sifting sand on a beach in Greece, and the idea of writing a poem set in the future.

The colour of wet

We had our one blanket, and the colours still
in it had names. Names of the plants from this land
in the times when the desert still flowered. 
So, we could name all the colours of grains of sand.

The yellows: rabbit brush, cliff rose and snakeweed.
Browns were onions, oak bark and tea.
Deep red was juniper, but most precious of all
was a pink from a shrub called purple bee. 

These grains were so few, they were kept in the skull
of a grasshopper the wind had spun in. And we’d ask
and ask, what were rabbits, what were bees,
what was a snake, and what the colour of grass?

A brighter, cooler colour than we’d ever dream,
they sighed. The colour of wet, the colour of clean.

Images and captions by Dr. Gary Greenberg, Author of A Grain of Sand
shell sand
The tip of a spiral shell has broken off and become a grain of sand. It is opalescent from the repeated tumbling action of the surf. Surrounding the shell fragment are five other sand grains, from top middle clockwise, (1) a pink shell fragment, (2) a foram, (3) a microscopic shell, (4) a volcanic melt, and (5) a bit of coral. Image Copyright © 2008 Dr. Gary Greenberg, All Rights Reserved.