A More Perfect Color of the Sky
Three years ago, we went to New York City and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. A Look at the Museum’s Memorial Hall
One of the striking displays is a giant wall with 2,983 watercolor squares in different shades of blue. Each square represents a person who died in the World Trade Center, either in 1993 or in 2001. Together the tiles form a more perfect picture of the color of the sky.
What do we mean when we say the sky is blue? Which blue? The blue of April is different than the blue of June. The blue at altitude is different than the blue of ocean. And sometimes the sky is many blues at once.
Some Blue Skies Are Like That
During the pandemic I’ve been reading Selected Poems: Barbara Crooker, by one of my favorite contemporary poets. Crooker is a great chronicler of sky. Here are a few of the dozens of blues mentioned in this collection:
- “Sun-blind blue sky”
- “The sky was a relentless blue.”
- “hot blue sky”
- “sky of forget-me-not blue”
- “tart blue”
- “eggshell blue sky”
- “Night covered us with her blueblack wing”
Notice that few of these descriptions are the traditional blue sky that implies carefree beauty. Some blue skies are like that, but Crooker opens our eyes to other blues with other implications.
TRY IT: Which Blue Sky Do You See Today?
Which blue sky do you see today? How can you describe it in a way that describes how you are feeling right now? Or perhaps your sky isn’t blue at all—it’s gray or even white. Write that sky.
A Poem to Get You Started
I am a big fan of the American Life in Poetry website, curated by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. A new poem is posted each Monday.
This poem by Alberto Ríos is about the blue of the sky. Ríos is from Nogales, Arizona, which shares a border with Nogales, Mexico, and his poetry often straddles lines. He was Arizona’s first poet laureate.
“We Are of a Tribe” by Alberto Ríos
We plant seeds in the ground
And dreams in the sky,
Hoping that, someday, the roots of one
Will meet the upstretched limbs of the other.
It has not happened yet.
We share the sky, all of us, the whole world:
Together, we are a tribe of eyes that look upward,
Even as we stand on uncertain ground.
The earth beneath us moves, quiet and wild,
Its boundaries shifting, its muscles wavering.
The dream of sky is indifferent to all this,
Impervious to borders, fences, reservations.
The sky is our common home, the place we all live.
There we are in the world together.
The dream of sky requires no passport.
Blue will not be fenced. Blue will not be a crime.
Look up. Stay awhile. Let your breathing slow.
Know that you always have a home here.
Even when you don’t feel like writing a poem, you can always journal about one. All you need is a pencil and paper (or a computer, if you prefer to be able to read your own writing).
- Read the poem.
- Jot down what you notice, what you like, what you don’t, what questions you have, and at least one way in which the poem speaks to your soul.
- Read the poem again, aloud (if you didn’t the first time).
- Is anything bubbling up? Do you feel a poem stirring? If so, write it. If not, congratulate yourself anyway because you wrote today by journaling.
Here’s my journaling from “We Are of a Tribe.”
- Blue is my color of hope, the turquoise of a Southwestern sky. Every time I go west, I am “Hoping that, someday,” what I wish will come about.
- What does the sky dream?
- Right now we all have so many restrictions due to COVID-19, but “Blue will not be fenced. Blue will not be a crime.” Today the sky is barely blue.
- I can’t help but think of a song I grew up with, “Blue Skies” by Willie Nelson. We’ve been covered up in blue sky this spring. Lately my Sundays have been “blue days,” sad days, as I had to stream my church’s service rather than gather in person. But behind the service on my screen is the most majestic blue sky.
- To plant dreams, we must look up. Eschew those screens long enough to long for something more. May we become “a tribe of eyes that look upward.”
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More Poetry Prompts
I don’t think I am alone in this fight to shake off numbness and reach for joy. And I don't want to become comfortable with this frozen feeling.
Abigail Carroll said these are poems of lament. In writing these “Make Me” poems, she began to lean into metaphor, changing not only how she wrote but also how she prayed.
Chronic Joy® Contributing Writer
Megan is a contributing writer for Wacoan magazine in Waco, Texas, the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post, and Magnolia Journal. She is also an editor at T.S. Poetry Press and the author of The Joy of Poetry. She lives in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes and edits from home. Links to her work can be found at her website, meganwillome.com and Twitter. Megan's day is incomplete without poetry and tea.
An anthology of most of the poetry of Amy Carmichael - 565 poems gathered from her published books. The untitled poems were given titles and all were arranged by the editors under seven major headings: Worship, Petition, Surrender, Ministry, Wartime, Encouragement and Youthful Thoughts.
Part memoir, part humorous and poignant defense of poetry, this is a book that shows you what it is to live a life with poems at your side. Megan's story is one you won't want to put down; meanwhile, her uncanny ability to reveal the why's and how's of poetry keeps calling—to even the biggest poetry doubter. If you already enjoy poetry, her story and her wisdom and her ways will invite you to go deeper, with novel ideas on how to engage with poems.