Red: the Color that Advances…

May 10, 2009 | One Comment

Recently I had the good fortune to interview the Maryland-based poet, Michael Salcman, about his life and work, and his complimentary careers as neurosurgeon and bard. We talked of many things, of testing metaphors and art collecting, of the social responsibility of the writer and the challenge of language. And while re-visiting his poetry, I encountered a perfect articulation of how important comparison (and therefore criticism) is to human perception and understanding, in the poem “Red: The Color that Advance” from his collection, The Clock Made of Confetti.  I post it as a defense (albeit small) for the role of the book critic, and the value of being able to sift the wheat from the chaff, (which need not temper the enjoyment of both, because without one we could not distinguish the other – a thought which, taken to its conclusion, could argue for the necessary existence of the devil but that’s a subject for another post…).  Resist the temptation, dear readers, of settling for “good-enough”; brave the slur of elitism.

When you try to make a point, they always say
“who are we to judge?” as if it weren’t

a question but a fact that everything in the world’s
of equal value. But the brain is built to compare
and can’t see red unless there’s a green nearby,
can’t know comfort without some painful contrast.
Cezanne intuitivly knew the brain sees red,
knew the eye was his touch extended,
that a green cloth and blue salver made
the apple red, that it takes two colors
to make a parade or a procession.
In a bowl of painted fruit
red is the color that advances.