Poem of the week: Pigment

A work by Sasha Dugdale

‘When a train passes I crouch down on the embankment/to watch the uniform black stars raining on the ballast’  Photograph: iStock

‘When a train passes I crouch down on the embankment/to watch the uniform black stars raining on the ballast’ Photograph: iStock

 

I always go to yellow to fight death
– Sean Scully

I always go to red to fight insomnia
and blue to fight addiction, and green
feeds my need for approval. But the semitones –
they get under my skin, the nipple pink of palimpsest
sage for the menopause navy blue for rape
grey for greased rope and buttercream for infanticide

the ochres give me a long history of anti-Semitism
and when they flare and crumble then I see battlefields
no, not red, but violet-black is the mortal colour
sparrow brown is the day dawning on the field
mint green beds the broken flints. I always go to
gold to feel disgust and desire: the desert road
planked with barracks is gold, mucus is dirt gold
corn is tooth gold, but scythed it yields to ash

When a train passes I crouch down on the embankment
to watch the uniform black stars raining on the ballast
Fight exile with indigo, gauze white, and the maroon weal
of an old wound. When I go to yellow
it is the debased colour of survival, sulphurous,
bankrupt and sometimes tinged with a green
that borders on darkness. Darkness is a hymn
I go to when I wish to fight light, when
reasonable light shovels itself
brick red over all the cities and hills
and the clouds look like dust, which looks like
smoke

Sasha Dugdale has published several collections, including Joy (Carcanet, 2017), the title poem of which won 2016 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. She is also a translator from Russian poetry and drama