Letters of Life


The second in a 12-part series on colour. Each post will feature a colour poem. 

White is black’s perfect counterpart, is everything black pretends not to be. It is clean and serene, calming too, and optimistic. Unlike sand or beige, white is not a neutral, for this colour of all colours always makes a statement.

It has been said that there are at least 16 shades of black. White easily doubles that.

White is high maintenance, urbane and sophisticated. It is rustic simplicity on Greek houses on the Mediterranean.

White lends quiet power. Other colours, paired with white, get a boost, stand out, and come into their own.

White is a pearl, and featherlight.

I do believe I love white as much as black.

What is White?

White is a dove
And lily of the valley
And a puddle of milk
Spilled in an alley—
A ship’s sail
A kite’s tail
a wedding veil
Hailstones and
Halibut bones
And some people’s
The hottest and most blinding light
Is white.
And breath is white
When you blow it out on a frosty night.
White is the shining absence of all color
Then absence is white
Out of touch
Out of sight.
White is marshmallow
And vanilla ice cream
And the part you can’t remember
In a dream.
White is the sound
Of a light foot walking
White is the beautiful
Broken lace
Of snowflakes falling
On your face.
You can smell white
In a country room
Toward the end of May
When the cherries bloom.

                                                                                         — Mary O’Neill, Hailstones and Halibut Bones (1961)

Tagged as:

Categorised in: Poetry & Songs, Style & Beauty


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