Stephen Beal

For this American born poet/artist, "colours are the magic carpet for his mind and his heart, and through poetry he explores memories and emotions evoked by the colours of embroidery floss".

His collection The Very Stuff : Poems on Color, Thread, and the Habits of Women (Interweave Press), received the poetry award from The Colorado Center for the Book in 1997. His poems are inspired by shades of embroidery floss that he uses for his own needlepoint canvases, which have been exhibited around the world.

Below are some of his poems, and the swatches that inspired them.

I have to admit I'm suspicious of this color.
Wary, even though I've come to use it a lot.
For one thing, if my daughter were going to the prom,
I would not select this fuchsia for her gown.
On the other hand, she might.

I mean, here we are, the kind of folks
Who button up the house by ten,
Having guaranteed
            that the dog has been walked
            that the cat has come in
            that the African violets have been watered 
            that the basement lights are off.
And all the while we are doing our duty,
tucking in the little ones and saying our prayers,
3607 is out at the roadhouse,
dancing the Monkey with a man named Earl!

What do you do with a color like this?
Lock her up?
Take away her ankle bracelet?
Make her enroll in data-entry?
No, you old stuffed shirt, just let her be,
soaring on her wings of neon
to the lipstick chorus line.

Here is the shade of the early morning air
at the point on the horizon where the world goes on forever.
Here is your pale blue entry into neverendingness,
the wings on which the everlasting sails.

Other colors drive into town, go shopping,
buy jeans for the kids or kibble for the dog.
Other colors sweat and swink their way through life,
staying mindful of relationships with others,
responsibilities, the mutual supports of shade and hue.

Whereas 747, because it goes with everything,
is blithe.
It will never steer you wrong, this blue;
it will never take over—and it will never disappear.
Wherever you place this blue on your canvas,
it behaves like an angel, blessing all about it 
            with equanimity, with purity ,
with the unassuming grace of the beloved.

This blue is the blue of everything that you aspire to,
and everything that you hold dear.
More than any blue I know,
this blue is clear

Someday I will see the place where the colors are made,
            The place of my joy.
There will be stairs leading up, wide marble stairs,
and there will be a room,
vast and vaulted and inspiring,
and there will be music, one hundred strings under the baton 
           of Carmen Dragon,
and there will be dancers, one hundred blondes 
            gowned by Jean Louis,
whooshing between the pillars in pastel chiffon.

The place is it: huge bubbling cauldrons of color
in which innocent cotton is transformed to gaudy hues,
to scarlet and fuchsia, to purple and gold,
to greens that bite your eyes and blues that lead you on until you think 
            the world will never end.

Oh, this is it, the place where all your dreams come true,
Where nothing is as it was and everything develops the potential
of what it can be.

Here is the stuff of change, the very stuff,
and you can take it home and hold it in your hands.
No paint will do, no paint will ever come close,
When you can stitch your lover a heart of ruby red, and say,
“This is the color – and the texture – of my love for you.”

Yes. This is the place where the colors are made.
This is the place of joy.

Every red haired woman in the world has worn this green.

When the movies went to Ireland in 1952,
a chorus line of lady leprechauns tricked out 991—
satin caps and satin shorts and snappy satin vests—
greeted Gene Kelly as he danced off the ship,
and down the pier,
and through the town,
and over the hill,
slick two-leaf clovers of green rumps blossoming behind.

Blue-green, really, an August color in the shade,
deep shade, a shade of the texture and the longing and the 
            long afternoons in the Alabama of Kurt Weill.
There is smoke in this green, smoke and romance, 
            as Susan Hayward in a hoop skirt strolls the verandah 
            impatient for her swain.

So what we've got here is a movie green,
the designer Edith Head swirling out a bolt of 991—
always in satin, only in satin—
and draping it around Rita Hayworth,
who is perfect, and smooth, like a woman made of peaches,
peaches and cognac and vanilla ice cream.

How can God make such beauty?

How can God resist?