Mary, Color Scientist

Dieser Flucht folgt Eros, night Verfolger, sondern
als Liebender; dergestalt, daß die Schönheit um
ihres Scheines willen immer beide flieht: den
Verständigen aus Furcht und aus Angst den
Liebenden . . . Ob Wahrheit dem Schönen gerecht
zu werden vermag?
—Walter Benjamin  

Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
Our eyes, upon one double string.
—John Donne  

blood in my eyes for you

No one comes here anymore.
I have a token NO
I have an idea NO
I was washed up
on a lab table, in the traditional
manner. “Everybody wants
to say the joyful joyfully, and I
finally saw it, when I was destroyed.”
Talk all you like, you’re already dead.
Mary, would you like to come outside?
Mary worked so long and hard
In the palace of black and white.
Mary knows things I don’t know.
She knows every tear I’ve cried.
She gave her life to seeing sight.
Mary, Mary, when will you come outside?
Well, we have these instruments

Beauty is a tooth. Correction:
The telephone rang. I was looking
At brown, there’s a history
I’m not getting into, beauty
Is still a tooth. Correction:
Nobody wanted to go to the post office.
Individually a vision, a vision
Individuate. You manx.
"Yeah, it’s that paper that lights up
When you look at it.” But why did
The ground start moving? Catch up.
She knew it was happening before
It started to happen. Catch up.
“What did you do, pay for
Those eyes?”
Opaque:   the rose is not red until your eyes fall upon it.
Translucent:   the rose is not red until your eyes.
Transparent:   the rose is not red.


Etc. Look, the story concerns Mary, and Mary alone. Mary
    alone in her colorless tower.
Snow will fall, day turn to night, and not even postmen evade
    her sight,
Lidless, fulfilling the ancient dream, she sees the tanks roll
    into Gaza
And dieters, she sees with all-encompassing eyes the shredding
    of orders,
Kids sneaking into The Story of O, the football scrimmage, and
Ending, she sees the end of Paris and Fort Worth, she watches
    subways melt
Sleeplessly, she knew how it all would work out, she trains her
    dials on the death
Of kings sitting sadly by the waterfront shacks, she sees
    beyond the genius
Of Edwards Teller, Hopper, and Lear. You and I are the trouble
    she’s seen.
Mary, wouldn’t you like to come outside?
Mary, Mary, when will you come outside?
The sky was black. The sky was blue.
I was sitting someplace. I saw it.

The community got together, as communities will,
And waited together for death. Some of us
Were colorblind, so when they lifted the red flag
To signal the drink, we had to be prodded
By neighbors. In a couple of cases,
There were clusters of the colorblind, after all
A genetic trait: these familial bands
Required repeated prodding by strangers
On the outskirts. It produced a wavelike pattern,
All this prodding, so that to an outside observer,
One tuning in from remote satellite, for example,
It was reminiscent of a Busby Berkeley scene,
Or one of those marching band routines
In which the scrambling about of the sousaphone players
Suddenly blossoms into a starfish or some kind of
Risqué joke. But within fifteen minutes or so,
The prodding subsided, and after that the drinking,
The twitching, and we all lay dead in the field.
After she emerged, she saw red, and it was red.
She emerged, and saw yellow. She saw blue.
After she emerged, she saw what green was like.
She saw purple and orange and gray.
John Beer, "Mary, Color Scientist" from The Waste Land and Other Poems. Copyright © 2010 by John Beer.  Reprinted by permission of Canarium Books.
Source: The Waste Land and Other Poems (Canarium Books, 2010)
More Poems by John Beer