“speckled / like a sky” : May Swenson’s “Blue”

A modern entry into the venerable poetic tradition of cataloging the beloved’s physical beauties (see: Petrarch, Shakespeare, Donne), May Swenson’s “Blue” is a poem that just begs to be read aloud. It’s rhythmic, sexy, and filled with bilabial consonants (‘p’ and ‘b’ in particular) that press the reader’s lips together into a kiss.


The speaker addresses her lover in lines replete with sensory imagery — taste and touch especially — made even more immediate by the present-tense action of the poem. And you won’t believe what she can do with three colors — white, rose (also the lover’s name), and blue.

Here are my favorite lines:

You’re white in
patches, only mostly Rose,
buckskin and salty, speckled
like a sky. I love your spots,
your white neck, Rose, your hair’s
wild straw splash, silk spools
for your ears.

You can read the entire poem here.