(SPAM Cuts) ‘From Colours and Tea’ by Tomi Adegbayibi
This week’s SPAM Cuts is Tomi Adegbayibi’s ‘From Colours and Tea’, as here illumined by our very own Max Parnell. ‘From Colours and Tea’ is available to read for free in DATABLEED issue 9, here.
‘Blue is to oxygen As box is to here The blue of the thread missing in loosening minds’
> Having been entranced by Oliver Sacks and his exploration of synesthesia among musicians in his book Musicofilia, this first of four poems from Tom Adegbayibi in Datableed 9 pulled me back into that world through its alluring first line, ‘the blue of the thread missing in loosening minds’.
> I was caught by its wordplay on the notion of minds as fabrics, one that resurfaces throughout the poem, and its teasing of a poetics of synesthesia that follows. Opening by questioning our knowledge of the sea’s colour, a stream of somehow both hazy and sharp visualization follows, tumbling neatly down the thin slice of justified text in the form of synesthesia-related metaphors: ‘your screams are the indigo between a string quartet who hate their bows. I am singing in the tones of your rotting larynx’. The picture is lucidly unsettling, yet the colour choice, one that skirts the edges of blue, adds a new and uncertain shade to this poem: the colour indigo, one introduced to Newton’s spectrum rather late, and one whose position on the spectrum many people still disagree over.
> There’s a claustrophobic element at work through the poem, one that’s delivered directly and unequivocally: ‘this room lied – told you you could breathe’, followed by the uncanny, trypophobic imagery of shrunk down condensed black holes perforating the subject’s body, presented through the simple question, ‘how many of these holes can your body hold?’. The sense of oncoming suffocation continues, ‘I warned you of walls. Breathe. Failed. Blue’, formed acutely through these one-word piercing sentences that feel like an increased heartbeat as the subject starts to lose air, being told almost casually that there ‘is air in a different colour…Strain if you must’. This insouciant tone seems strangely incongruous with the image of someone struggling to breathe, increasing the sense of claustrophobia that matches the pace of the sentences. Perhaps what I find most enchanting in this passage is the image of the subject’s synesthesia moving into a new realm, no longer just blending and confusing their senses, but now enmeshing their respiration into this confusion. We see someone close to suffocating, blacking out and searching not just for an opening in a windowless room, but for the right colour of air to keep them alive. What that colour is, and if it really is one from another unknown galaxy, is left open-ended after a stream of rapid commands culminate with one request: ‘Tell me if blue is still your choice’.
Text: Max Parnell