Letters and colors: an abecedary

In which I ask myself what color each letter is, in order of the alphabet and with a side excursion into musical notes

D is for deer.

my dearest. This d is the red of my a. It’s printed by Nik Bresnick of bittersugar. Thanks, Nik!

Letters have had colors for me for a long time. When I’m reading, they recede and the meaning of the words takes up most of the room. But when I’m thinking of words or letters specifically, the colors float there. Some are less vivid than others. Sometimes to see a letter’s color I need to see it next to other letters. Some change depending on what other letters they’re next to.

A result of this synesthesia is that certain of the endearments have colors. The originating word, in my mind, has a palette that infuses, transforms, as it appears in the words that make the poem. Thus “dreamboat” is grass green (d), pinky red (a), bright blue (e), all dulled down a bit by the dark black-brown of the r and the muddy purple of the m. Sweetheart” has a similar blue-red thing going, deepened by the blue of the w and cheered by the vague but warm-colored h.

Where do these colors come from? I think the A comes from a Fisher-Price magnet alphabet that we had on our fridge when I was growing up. That bright pinky red. But of the others’ provenance I am less sure, because that alphabet does not continue to match up. Oliver Sacks could probably tell me.

Below, a record of what colors the letters have in my mind as of this September. The problem being, of course, that saying one version of a thing can make it more true. Thus I intend to avoid rereading this record. I like shift.

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A well-known pleasure of the anagram is that sometimes it makes sense: from the mixing up emerges a phrase, a bit of syntax, that is pleasing in its own right. Like finding an amethyst in a streambed. (Which I did, as a kid—and then I found out that the rock-finding guy who was visiting us had planted it in the stream in front of me. He thought I should be rewarded for my effort. But it felt like a false reward to me.)

No one plants the especially crystalline anagram. You find them fair and square. My dearest dear, which I’m working on, has offered up a few good ones. Some are pretty:

dart-eyed mares

Some of them express facets of the human condition:

Am tardy. See red.

—which is no fun for anybody, but which happens. One more, kind of Shakespearean, and possibly an answer to the previous one:

Stay mere dread.

Should I call these things micropoems? They are smaller than what others are calling micropoetry right now (they’re many fewer than 140 characters, to use one measure). I wanted to say nano, but are they small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier? Besides, everything is nano of late.

But my present sample, I am realizing, is perhaps skewed—my dearest dear has 13 letters, which is long(ish) for an endearment. This changes things. Most endearments are too short for the descriptor micro.

So nano it is.