Hailstones and Halibut Bones  

 by Mary O'Neill

Like acrobats on a high trapeze the Colors pose and bend their knees. Twist and turn and leap and blend Into shapes and feelings without end.

The Colors live between black and white

in a land that we know best by sight.

But knowing best isn't everything,

for colors dance and colors sing,

and colors laugh and colors cry -- -- --

Turn off the light and colors die,

and they make you feel every feeling there is

from the grumpiest grump to the fizziest fizz.

And you and you and I know well

each has a taste and each has a smell

and each has a wonderful story to tell...


What Is Purple?

Time is purple just before night

when most people turn on the light -- --

but if you don't it's a beautiful sight.

Asters are purple, there's purple ink.

Purple's more popular than you think...

it's sort of a great Grandmother to pink.

There are purple shadows and purple veils,

some ladies purple their fingernails.

There's purple jam and purple jell

and a purple bruise next day will tell

where you landed when you fell.

The purple feeling is rather put-out

the purple look is a definite pout.

But the purple sound is the loveliest thing

It's a violet opening in the spring.


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What Is Gold?

Gold is a metal, Gold is a ring,

Gold is a very beautiful thing.

Gold is the sunshine light and thin

warm as a muffin on your skin.

Gold is the moon, Gold are the stars;

Jupiter, Venus, Saturn and Mars,

Gold is the color of clover honey

Gold is a certain kind of money.

Gold is alive in a flickering fish  

that lives its life in a crystal dish.

Gold is the answer to many a wish.

Gold is feeling like a King

it's like having the most of everything --

long time ago I was told

yellow's mother's name is Gold...

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What Is Black?

Black is kind, it covers up

the run-down street, the broken cup.

Black is charcoal and patio grill,

the soot spots on the window sill.

Black is a feeling hard to explain

like suffering but without the pain.

Black is licorice and patent leather shoes

Black is the print in the news.

Black is beauty in its deepest form,

the darkest cloud in a thunderstorm.

Think of what starlight and lamplight would lack,

diamonds and fireflies, if they couldn't lean against Black...

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What Is Brown?

Brown is the color of a country road,

back of a turtle, back of a toad.

Brown is cinnamon and morning toast

and the good smell of the Sunday roast.

Brown is the color of work and the sound of a river,

Brown is bronze and a bow and a quiver.

Brown is the house on the edge of town

where wind is tearing the shingles down.

Brown is a freckle, Brown is a mole

Brown is the Earth when you dig a hole.

Brown is the hair on many a head

Brown is chocolate and gingerbread.

Brown is a feeling you get inside

when wondering makes your mind grow wide.

Brown is a leather shoe and a good glove -- --

Brown is as comfortable as love.

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What Is Blue?

Blue is a heron, a sapphire ring,

you can smell blue in many a thing:

Gentian and Larkspur, forget-me-nots, too.

And if you listen you can hear blue

in wind over water and wherever flax blooms

and when evening steps into lonely rooms.

Cold is blue; flame shot from a welding torch Is, too

hot, wild, screaming, blistering blue

and on winter mornings the dawns are blue...

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What is Gray?

Gray is the color of an elephant and a mouse

and a falling apart house.

it's fog and smog, fine print and lint,

it's a hush and the bubbling of oatmeal mush.

Tiredness and oysters, both are gray,

smoke swirls and grandmother curls.

So are some spring coats and nannygoats.

Eagles are gray and a rainy day

the sad look of a slum and chewing gum

Wood ash and linen crash.

Pussywillows are gray in a velvety way.

Suits, shoes and bad news, 

beggars' hats and alley cats,

Skin of a mole and a worn slipper sole.

Content is gray and sleepiness, too

they wear gray suede gloves

when they're touching you...

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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 telephones.

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 in the cherry bloom. 

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What is Orange?

Orange is a tiger lily, a carrot,

a feather from a parrot, a flame,

the wildest color you can name.

Orange is a happy day saying good-by

in a sunset that shocks the sky.

Orange is brave, Orange is bold,

it's bittersweet and marigold.

Orange is zip, Orange is dash,

the brightest stripe in a Roman sash.

Orange is an orange, also a mango

Orange is music of the tango.

Orange is the fur of the fiery fox,

the brightest crayon in the box.

And in the fall when the leaves are turning

Orange is the smell of a bonfire burning...

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What is Red?

Red is a sunset, blazy and bright.

Red is feeling brave with all your might. 

Red is a sunburn spot on your nose,

sometimes red is a red, red rose.

Red squiggles out when you cut your hand.

Red is a brick and a rubber band.

Red is a hotness you get inside

when you're embarrassed and want to hide

firecracker, fire engine, fire flicker -- --

and when you're angry red runs through your head.

Red is an Indian, a Valentine heart,

the trimming on a circus cart.

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What is Pink?

Pink is the color of a rose.

They come in other colors but everyone knows

pink is the mother-color of a rose.

Pink is a new baby, the inside of a shell..

Pink is a cooked shrimp and a Canterbury bell.

Pink is peachbloom, gauzy... frail

the wind's exquisite wedding veil.

Pink is a bonbon, pink is a blush,

some Easter bunnies are pink plush.

If you stand in an orchard In the middle of Spring

and you don't make a sound you can hear pink sing,

a darling, whispery song of a thing.

Pink is the beautiful little sister of red my teacher said, 

and a ribbon girls tie round their head.

Pink is the sash with the lovely fold

your remember when you're old.

Pink is the flower on a lady's hat

that nods and bows this way and that.

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What is Green?

Green is the grass and the leaves of trees

Green is the smell of a country breeze.

Green is lettuce and sometimes the sea.

When green is a feeling you pronounce it N. V.

Green is a coolness you get in the shade

of the tall old woods where the moss is made.

Green is a flutter that comes in Spring

when frost melts out of everything.

Green is a grasshopper, Green is jade

Green is hiding in the shade -- -- --

Green is an olive and a pickle.

The sound of Green is a water trickle

Green is the world after the rain, 

bathed and beautiful again.

April is green, peppermint too.   

Every elf has one Green shoe.

Under a grape arbor air is green 

with sprinkles of sunlight in between.

Green is the meadow, Green is the fuzz

that covers up where winter was

Green is ivy and honeysuckle vine.

Green is yours, Green is mine...

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What Is Yellow?

Yellow is the color of the sun, the feeling of fun, 

the yolk of an egg, a duck's bill, 

a canary bird and a daffodil. 

Yellow's sweet corn, ripe oats, 

hummingbirds' little throats

Summer squash and Chinese silk

the cream on top of Jersey milk

dandelions and daisy hearts, 

custard pies and lemon tarts.

Yellow blinks on summer nights 

in the off and on of firefly lights.

Yellow's a topaz, a candle flame.  

Felicity's a yellow name.

Yellow's mimosa, and I guess,

yellow is the color of happiness.

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