James Whitesmith
Into the Blue by James Whitesmith

For M. R.

Eyes not exactly blue,
but light and blue metal,
a blue blue that is not,
but rather a hue of intense.
Not blue like the sky
on a cool summer night,
but blue like stone glint
in the sun. Blue after rain,
blue before dawn, the blue
of paintings as they settle into blue.
There is a grey, spelled with an “e”
and a wisp of silver villain.
There is the blue of longing
and the blue of knowing,
the blue of promise and bruises,
ocean and longing. Did I
say “blue,” did I say “longing”?
What I meant was
the color of a storm
and its lazy rise to torment,
its thunder yearn and blue,
what might happen next,
what might happen if never
is the shade of blue I am
wearing, what my white
heart does with desire, how
when we get to the end,
we are nothing except
want and vein, except
ink and eyes, except
something in between
longing & knowing,
and dear god,

Click here to read Leslie Anne Mcilroy on the origin of the poem.

Photo: “Into the Blue” by James Whitesmith; licensed under CC BY 2.0

Leslie Anne Mcilroy:
Blue is a love poem, flat out — it seeks to capture the moment you fall for someone full body, mind and soul, knowing from the start you can’t have them, but letting yourself experience a shameless, all-consuming desire. You want it so badly but know it will come to no good. You are beautifully, recklessly in, despite. It was written for a specific person, whose eyes are extraordinarily blue, offering up a world of color/images to play with: sadness, melancholy and the classic, organic melody of the “blues.”


A narrative poem, it starts with trying to put a finger on what the blue actually is, using the repetition of “blue” to move the poem forward with a musicality of images that suggests a rhythm, a deepening. And then I did something I rarely do: the speaker questions herself: “Did I say blue? Did I say longing?” This provided a natural break in the poem, a turning, moving to the final note of recognition, futility, desperate yearning. It is a story.


What I love about the poem (if a poet is allowed to say that about her own work), is that it gets at the despondence, the storm of the unrequited — or inaccessible — love, a feeling that is part of this thing we call humanity — loss — a thing we can all relate to. It goes from the specific to the universal, allowing the reader in. Plus, I love the way it sounds. Lots of consonants that juxtaposed, have a phonetically appealing sonorous note: “wisp of silver villain,” “thunder yearn,” “want and vein.” I love poems that sound as strong as they feel.

I work at this because I believe that if one can illuminate the resonance of a poem with its emotion, it is that much more effective. I perform “Blue” with a saxophone player — Kenny Blake — who informs it with a classic blues melody from “Am I Blue.” It’s a delicious indulgence. If I were to leave you with anything, I would say, read your poems out loud. Feel them. Hear them. Sing them. Listen. And then revise. : )

Leslie Anne Mcilroy
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  • Blue - March 29, 2015