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by LINDSEY BOLDT
The professor is wearing new pants. You might call them camel colored. In fact the word camel springs to the tongue as if it were invented specifically to describe these pants. CAMEL: The “k” of the C, the breadth of the A, followed by the slow ride down to a soothing M and then a lazy slip of an L at the end. Camel. They look soft, like the sound the M and the L make in combination. If you ran your hand down their length, the fabric would feel just like that. You wouldn’t though, run your hand down their length, that wouldn’t happen.
Something about their shape calls to mind The Little Prince, the fitted waist and slight flare at the feet. They are almost perfect, as far as pants go.
During a smoke break, everyone is talking about them.
“Did you see those pants?”
Everyone is confused, surprised, bemused even. When the professor passes someone says, "Nice pants." Not in a snarky way but with genuine appreciation. Though we are congenial and feel mutual respect and admiration for one another, “Nice pants.” is not something we would regularly say to him. It is a special day.
We have often remarked on our professor’s style to one another. It is something we all have in common — looking at this man sixteen or so hours a week. He tends to dress in button up shirts, slacks, usually pleated, and black leather shoes or hiking boots. We’ve noticed that many visiting male poets sport a similar style: button up tucked into dark jeans, hiking boots, round-rimmed glasses. Variations include: turtleneck tucked into dark jeans, puffy high-top tennis shoes, glasses. The up-and-coming young NY poet wears something altogether different, maybe turtleneck, blazer, slacks, leather shoes, glasses.
Would a non-beige camel be offended by the term camel-colored? Flesh-colored connotes Caucasian, the peach crayon in the box. Camel signifies a specific sunny beige hue. The color of sand dunes lit at a certain angle, not the dark grey of Pacific North West sand, or the red of the South Western United States. Camel colored sand must be African sand, the sand pictured in the background of a photograph taken with Bedouin rider sporting headscarf.
The professor tells a story about standing amongst the dunes of a Chinese desert. If he had taken one step further from the path, he says, he would have lost all sense of direction and become lost. He relates this to the concept of bewilderment. He considers the difference between feeling lost and feeling bewildered. Maybe bewilderment is something we enter into intentionally whereas becoming lost is something that happens by accident. The dunes are the same color as his pants. He stands amongst the Chinese dunes wearing these camel colored pants and a blue shirt that fairly wavers against a blue sky.
We are enthralled by these pants, their incongruity with our previous idea of this professor’s style, their sleek cut and slight flare, their apparent softness — almost velveteen. Khaki would not begin to describe their color or fabric. He is speaking about the expansion and contraction of language in time, through, over, between times and out of time, navigating the difference in relation between these prepositions and their relationship to language. He utters an especially piquant pun. Soft chuckles all around.
That blue, what do you call it? Sky blue? Whose sky and at what time of day? Not early morning and obviously not evening. Max Ernst would know. It’s all over his paintings. It’s all over California, though looking into a sky that blue sucks in sight and offers no relief. There’s no edge to it, no gradation, no change: it bewilders. How can anything real be really that blue? That must be why the surrealists loved it. We’ll call it surrealist blue. The name of that crayon is surrealist blue.
We have been told that we are terrible schmoozers and it’s probably true. The style of a visiting female poet and her accompanying interest in anime was an especially hot topic a few months prior. She wore a white silk kimono over baggy green jeans tucked into puffy white tennis shoes. A light colored scrunchy held her long brown hair in a pony tale. The author party before her reading was a complete bust as usual. As an attempt at chatting up the visiting writer, one of us struck up a conversation with her about her tennis shoes. We were chided harshly the next day in class. It is clear that we are not ready for the real world.
Does it make sense to feel color in your mouth? Is that something that happens? That surrealist blue causes a distinct presence of sensation in the mouth as if it is being filled with something or that it has unknowingly closed itself around something that fits its interior ridges and concavities completely (perfectly). It is difficult to separate this sensation from the desire for it. Is it that the colors fill the mouth with this sensation or that the mouth wants to eat the colors, to fill itself? Is there a word for the desire to eat colors?
The professor has something to say about desire. He says things about the body too. We listen, nodding, being too young, really, to know the meaning of desire. It is something you learn from having a long stretch of lack.
Combine the sensation of a German "r" rasping in the rear of the mouth approaching the throat, a French "r" that purrs towards mid-mouth and a Spanish "r" flipping in behind the teeth, say them all, make them with the mouth and feel them resonate filling up the mouth and this would approximate the desire. The sight of a lover's clavicle, that shadowy trough, or the curve of a shoulder in chiaroscuro.
Lindsey Boldt is a writer living in Oakland. You can find her website here. Her play Dating by Consensus, written with partner and collaborator Steve Orth, debuted at Small Press Traffic's Poets Theater 2012. She is the author of "Oh My, Hell Yes" and Overboard and recently co-edited a book of homages to the poet Etel Adnan titled Homage to Etel Adnan.