Color Wheel

Goethe’s eight part color wheel

Color itself is a degree of darkness. – Goethe

Now sing of that which is, is in and of itself: the spirit,
Not any color, save informing and substantial White.
And its descent into the cragging world. Are you not near it,
It’s winging down, this light?


Yellow, color nearest light, blink of giant birth
Behind the hills at dawn, the emanation of that creche
Most brilliant, biggest light, least wrapped in atmosphere of earth;
Gentle complexion of the East bay window, silken mesh
And tint of Easter-tide brocade, of limpid beeswax’s flesh,
Of daffodil, of pale-split juicy blocks of pine, of inches
Of butter, Gauguin’s Christ, and too the bellied gild of finches.

Red-yellow, in procession from the glorious to the rich,
But noble, as in fire and bronze in evening fire’s shade.
Clot-thickening, yet undilute, un-vulgar plenty which
Like fire burns the water under sky’s own dawn. The fade
Electric of the antique hanging bulb, the muddled wade
The insect makes in slowest moving amber; tears the son
Of Helios earned in falling, from his sisters, wrought in sun.


Yellow-Red, rich rust, scabbed sulfurous crimson of decay
That steeps the hides of mastiffs, copper coins, and certain sands
That bed the shores of Greece, the brindle of a chestnut bay
That rests inside its stable, groomed by burnt and leathered hands.
The tresses of the Magdalene, whose silken stays and bands
Are loosed, to shower perfume from the head down to the feet,
Which, gathering in spending of itself, is right and meet.

Now Red; in brunt all other shades, like mad and holy laughter
Or blood of fresh-killed hogs on diamond grains of argent snow,
As wine within a chalice; droplets on the collar after
Shaving. Desire, fear, old love, and anger; what will show
The energy of spirit in the body, what will grow
In nurture, feed and come to knowledge, hurt, and waste and die
In that same body, in those lights which now encolored lie.


Blue-red, magenta, prime materia, base dissolvant, dressing
Broad smears on cavern walls, as dye of Tyre on grind
Stone. Not yet ritual royal purple, but the crush and pressing
Of the murex, rock snail’s calcite fragments, slowly mined
For hue. The magic bull, the dun horse, giant elk, combined
In profile, first dreams darkening, like massive shadows lunged
Atop the dim escarpment, by the half light near expunged.

Red-blue, mauve’s blacking blush on ice upon the northern sea
And revelation of the going out of lights, the sound
Of heatless air. And all that there will ever ever be,
Consigns itself to this. Blue purple covers all the ground
In twilight, formless. Ice is smooth, low-peaked or cupped in round,
And licked with the untasting tongue of the departed air.
Yet this will also utter benediction, psalm, and prayer.


Blue, deep immersion in the depths of boundless ocean’s waste
Near nothing, vastness of unknowing at a distance, rapt
In magnifying waters, eons weighted and the chaste
Undoing of all things’s aseity; the depths enwrapped
But not the heights of Being. The waves that breasted, tilted, slapped
The sides of boats and beaches are invisible, above
And far, as earth from gem-stone stars, or distant Hell from love.

But then, green-blue cerulean creeps up, in forest brackened,
Like scrubby evergreens of Maine, a spiny beard upon
The lumpen rocks, the sun-warmed algae slowly on the blackened
Granite skin. The wormy mess of seaweed, suck and yawn
Of tidal pools that crave in midday heat to bear their spawn
Of microscopic and crustaceous loves unto the world.
The marshy, mildewed, breeze now hovers, salted, flapped, and curled.


Blue-Green the depths of ancient pine, the shadowed comforter
Of moss, set off by a pile of bones. The shade that slightly bruises
The undersides of needles, branches, ragged bark of fir;
A prehistoric armor. Here is rank, yet no one loses,
Here is rank with equilibrium, and nothing chooses.
The undergrowth grows only in the shade. The columned pines
Are pillars to the woods, the sky, themselves; and votive shrines.

Green is the light in yet another form, the plant, the leaf,
In climax of return, the same mutation as before,
Beyond all expectation, and beyond all firm belief.
The oil was dry, the bundled grain was not at all in store,
We thought the sea was all, the winter all; yet even more
We feared, perhaps, the net of light in water, sea of change
Into something rich and fresh, and strange beyond the strange.


Yellow-green, the color of the spring, and of the herbs
And wasteful, Solomonic flowers, the winding knobbled shoots
Of living wood, that bend without reluctance. Oh the verbs
And reverbs of that time, when time has brief fulfillment! Roots
Are only known by blossoms, and the sweetening, bellied fruits
to come are told by no invented rule, but by the flowers,
And quickened wombs of animals that swell with fertile hours.

The peridot will coalesce beneath accreting stone,
And wait to shine transparent, yellow glinting under green,
As sunlight through the canopy of leaves has dug and shone.
Reality distills, refines itself towards that mean
That vanishes, which neither mind has known nor eye has seen.
So unlined dark bears light out of its core and inky dye;
So purest light is darkness to the still, unblinking eye.

              And now the swelling, empty Night
Swallows up Light, conspiring, in her matrix, to exhume
And crown him, birthed again, as if arising from some tomb.