This is my favorite poem.
Ladies and Gentlemen in Outer Space
By Ron Padget
Here is my philosophy:
Everything changes (the word “everything”
has just changed as the
word “change” has: it now
means “no change”) so
quickly that it literally surpasses my belief,
charges right past it
like some of the giant
ideas in this area.
I had no beginning and I shall have
no end: the beam of light
stretches out before and behind
and I cook the vegetables
for a few minutes only,
the fewer the better. Butter
and serve. Here is my
philosophy: butter and serve.
Most people I’ve shown think this poem is incomprehensible. It honestly is incomprehensible. But, perhaps the best reason I can give for my love of Ladies and Gentlemen in Outer Space is that, in my mind, this poem is yellow. Warm yellow. It’s the color of an old fluorescent light, like the square of illumination created by a single open window in a darkened apartment complex. The sort of yellow that makes you think of your childhood and white kitchen appliances. This poem is impossible to divorce from its color. I genuinely don’t have the words to explain it, but this poem has such a power to evoke this hyperspecific feeling. Many things are just better expressed in terms of color. Feelings – physical and emotional – and colors are intertwined.
I remember high school as a blur of grey; in one word, I would describe it as controlled. I spent most of my time alone, studying. Not that I didn’t enjoy it – high school was the place where I a) discovered my love of biology, and b) spent time developing a sense of intellectual vivacity. I figured that I wanted to come out of high school an educated citizen of the world, and I devoured every piece of knowledge I could get my hands on. I loved (and love) learning with every fiber of my being. Simultaneously, though, loneliness was a big part of my high school experience. I had a friend group, but I look back and realize how colorless life felt back then.
I like to think about it in terms of feelings. Not emotions – I’m talking about sensations. I'm so astute, it's crazy. Cruelly, brutally cold. Every day last winter, I would leave Next House and gasp. I was delighted every single time. I felt awake, shocked, and a little bit more alive. Cold weather makes you feel human, in some strange way. You’re aware of your every extremity, you can feel the warmth of your own breath, the softness of your sweater. The whole experience is intoxicating. The chill is bright, stabbing into your consciousness, a shard of pastel, luminous blue.
During my freshman fall, I often struggled with a feeling of all-consuming dread. One night, when I was feeling particularly horrible, I went out in the midst of a November thunderstorm. It was raining so hard that it felt as if the ice-cold pellets of water were rocks. I left my jacket unzipped and my hood down. I was chilled to the bone within 30 seconds of walking out the door, but all I could really think about was the searing heat of the tears on my face. You can’t really see your tears in the rain, but you can certainly feel them. it’s the orange of a dying ember if you were wondering. Sorrow. I began to focus on the trajectory of the raindrops. The wind was so uncontrollable that I could see the curvature of their paths; they sprayed upwards, coating my eyelashes. They had an almost orchestral movement; I felt like there was a balloon in my lungs, expanding with awe. The rain is violet, a sort of inescapable, shadowy aubergine that fades to lavender and gold.
Nightfall is a true ultramarine, the color of paint squeezed right out of the tube. I like to sit on the rocks near the Charles, crouch down so I’m almost at water level, and run my hand across the surface of the uneven stones. On a windy day, the river is in constant motion, rippling with the reflected shine of the Boston skyline. There’s a soft coolness that settles on the surface of your skin, just enough to numb the tips of your fingers. Boston is a shower of sparkles that perpetually feels as if it ought to fade into nothing, like fireworks. A sea of blue, scattered with bright, concentrated points of pure white, red, and deep yellow.
I’ve had golden afternoons in the summer that make your skin tingle in the suffocating heat. In the summer, it feels as if everything has been covered with a light wash of yellow by noon time. The evening sky is cotton candy pink. I spend most of my commute to class looking up, absorbed by the scintillating green of leaves in the breeze against the clear, autumnal, blue sky.
These were all things I learned during my freshman year of college. I think, in amassing these colors, I was figuring out how to be thoroughly, truly, entirely, achingly alive.
As a freshman, I began to see myself as being defined by this extremely vivid experience of life. Having emotions, and leaning into them, became part of my conception of who Shorna was. She was emotional, because to be honest, even though my freshman fall was incredibly, incredibly miserable, it felt real. Real-er than anything else had, ever. I felt like a human. It was honestly hard to resist; In the course of a few months, I experienced the rosiness of infatuation, the ebony black of depression, the it never, really, got a color the abyssal blue of heartbreak. I felt alive, but also out of control.
Sophomore fall is different. I’ve experienced a lot more emotions than I had a year ago. Life is quieter, less chaotic, and less painful. There are fewer emotions to be hard, partly because I have a lot more control now. The river is still where I go when I want to feel things, though. I’ll text my friend Nathan at some ungodly hour of the night, and drag him to the same rock by the Charles every time. I’ll fold my legs, plop down next to him, and just… sort of… sit there. And I’ll experience the range of human emotions. Sometimes I say something, and sometimes I don’t. That’s, I guess, the thing about really, genuinely having feelings; they’re incredibly hard to capture. I think they’re like inherent truths that reverberate in your soul. Indisputable, unchangeable, powerful, on their own. Colors are really the best approximation I have for what’s happening because words aren’t enough. Either way… life certainly isn’t grey anymore.
- I'm so astute, it's crazy. back to text ↑
- it’s the orange of a dying ember if you were wondering. Sorrow. back to text ↑
- it never, really, got a color back to text ↑