What I thought was an injustice turned out to be a color of the sky -Tony Hoagland

Poem: "A Color of the Sky" by Tony Hoagland,
from What Narcissism Means to Me. 
© Graywolf Press. Reprinted with permission. (Buy)

(For Analysis/Notes see below)
A Color of the Sky

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,
driving over the hills from work.
There are the dark parts on the road
when you pass through clumps of wood
and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,
but that doesn't make the road an allegory.

I should call Marie and apologize
for being so boring at dinner last night,
but can I really promise not to be that way again?
And anyway, I'd rather watch the trees, tossing
in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

Otherwise it's spring, and everything looks frail;
the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves
are full of infant chlorophyll,
the very tint of inexperience.

Last summer's song is making a comeback on the radio,
and on the highway overpass,
the only metaphysical vandal in America has written
in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

Last night I dreamed of X again.
She's like a stain on my subconscious sheets.
Years ago she penetrated me
but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,
I never got her out,
but now I'm glad.

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.
What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.
What I thought was an injustice
turned out to be a color of the sky.

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store
and the police station,
a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,
like a sudsy mug of beer;
like a bride ripping off her clothes,

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

so Nature's wastefulness seems quietly obscene.
It's been doing that all week:
making beauty,
and throwing it away,
and making more.

Analysis/Notes On this Poem

Feelings, like the sky, come in variety of shades and colors.  And today the writer is not happy driving down the road.  He says he's "less than brilliant" like the windy weather. He notices the difference between dark parts of the road ... dark because of the wood ... and the light part of the road, with an ocean view.  But he doesn't want to acknowledge the difference.  He throws the reader off by saying the the road is not an allegory.  Because the reader is reading a poem, he expects allegories and metaphors, but that is not where the writer wants the reader to focus.  The writer wants the reader to focus on the "less than brilliant."

In the next stanza we hear what may be the reason for the dull mood: the poet has had a bad dinner date last night.  He blames himself for being boring. He is blaming himself for being less than adequate, less than fun, and less than brilliant.  He thinks about whether he should call his date and apologize for being boring, but then he decides against that. The reason why he decides against apologizing is because he cannot promise to change his ways.  He will likely be boring in the next date as well.  So he decides to focus on the scenery - initially its hard to tell, but from the words later on it is clear that the trees are tossing white petals. 

Its early spring. And while most poets and poetry extoll the virtues of spring, and the happiness of spring, the feelings of the poet have colored the beauty of the spring.  The spring doesn't seem to hold any charm. In fact everything looks frail. Whether it is the baby blue sky, the leaves that are just coming out, and the chlorophyll that is starting to build within the leaves.  Even the chlorophyll is infant.  

By the middle of the poem, I notice a recurrence of "comeback" in the poem.  Dark patches on the road coming back after light patches.  Trees toss back and forth.  Spring comes back.  Leaves come back. Flowers. Chlorophyll.  Everything comes back.  Last summer's song makes a comeback on the radio. And the poet is thinking of lost love.  By the time he starts talking about lost love, it is clear that lost love making a comeback in the poet's mind.  

A vandal has written "Memory loves Time" on the highway overpass. And the poet wonders whether time loves memory back. The poet is thinking about a lost love.  He could not erase her from his memory. She stays with him like a stain on the subconscious sheet of his mind.  He is probably wondering why she did not him back.  

That love is one sided is not fair. He has given his love and has received no love in return. It is an injustice. It at least seems like an injustice. Later on he realizes something else ... 

In a way it is good that she hasn't left his mind. At last ... something positive has happened in this poem. And he realizes that there is optimism in everything that is somewhat gloomy.  What seems to be unending torture actually has an end, and then something else makes a comeback.  Whatever we think is an end turns out to be a middle. In fact, I am thinking there is no end in life. Everything is a middle. Everything is temporary.  Life is like the color of the sky. No ends. Just temporary shades. 

He had given his love. But it's not that he has not received anything back. He has the stain on his subconscious sheet to cherish. It was a color of the sky that passed but it left its mark. 

Shades follow shades.  Each shade having nothing to do with the other, but still connected.  In between a snowy winter and a scorching summer there is an immature spring.  Oddly. In between the police station and the liquor store is the youth center.  Even more oddly. 

Wastefulness of love. [to be completed]