In the Blue Painted Blue

Recently, sometime this past month, I could no longer guess the particular day with any accuracy, I had one of those, well I am not sure what to call it, a phantasy, while I was driving, that included, in the population of drivers, not just those to my right and left, those in Cleveland and Vancouver, and the rest of the world, but included an intimation, a fantasy, of another group of drivers, unbeknownst to most of us, that were blind to visible light, but managed to negotiate the maze of streets with a similar aplomb to the rest of us, by means of a different kind of light. 

This phantasy that settled on me as I drove one day, quickly evaporated, but left behind a lingering feeling of strangeness I attempted to target in the following ridiculous ‘poem’:

the lakes on Titan, a satellite of Saturn, are brimming with liquid methane. can you ever see the faces in passing clouds reflected on their surfaces?

a race of human beings, unable to see by day, except in wavelengths beyond visible light, have learned to prowl the city in broad daylight by the black light cast from souped up cars. where do they hide out?

i painted my hands and my face blue, but was suddenly swept up by the wind and started to fly, and in the infinite sky, i discovered the being Volare. how long has he been there, in the infinite sky?

Attempting to articulate the idea surviving my fantasy, in as few words as possible, was a frustrating experience. And for reasons not obvious to me I bracketed the expression between a couple of other rather ludicrous expressions of a kind of ‘far-away’ feeling. Today I was thinking how this attempt at poetry had so left my thoughts; I had almost forgotten even putting it together.

I went back and looked at the different parts of this creation out of curiosity. The questions are more or less unanswerable, perhaps even without real meaning. Strangely I discovered, out of a little bit of research on the internet, a kind of background to this mesh of words that really seems as strange to me as the fantasy itself.

There have actually been reports of people able to see ultraviolet light, especially ‘aphakic’ individuals, people who have had the lenses removed from their eyes. Strange to say but the eye itself, rather the lens, seems to help block perception of this light.

“An illustration of how ultraviolet appears is provided by the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Following cataract surgery in 1923, his colour palette changed significantly; after the operation he painted water lilies with more blue than before. This may be because after lens removal he could see ultraviolet light, which would have given a blue cast to the world.”

See the full article here.

The final stanza includes the opening words to the song ‘Volare’. Now most covers of this song leave this intro out. Interesting but seeing ultraviolet light is a bit like seeing shades of blue…

Last but not least are the lakes on Titan. Recently confirmed to be liquid methane along with other hydrocarbons, ultraviolet light has a big part to play in their formation, breaking apart methane into other compounds that end up in the lakes as well. The lakes are very black, reflecting very little light at all, and seem as incredibly calm as a mirror. Reflecting clouds is probably something that may not happen at all.

“We know the lake is liquid because it reflects essentially no light at 5-micron wavelengths,” Brown said. “It was hard for us to accept the fact that the feature was so black when we first saw it. More than 99.9percent of the light that reaches the lake never gets out again. For it to be that dark, the surface has to be extremely quiescent, mirror smooth. No naturally produced solid could be that smooth.”

The complete article is here.

We have lakes without reflections, people that can see ultraviolet light, and a song about flying in the sky, painted blue, meeting one of its denizens…. Yet it almost seems as if there is a kind of story here, something behind the fantasy, trying to find expression… of course that seems equally as ridiculous as the ‘poem’ itself… the triad reminds me also of a sort of analogy test. This is to that as that is to something else etc.

The lakes without reflections seem strangely like eyes without their lenses. The fact that images seen by ultraviolet light are tinged with blue seems to find a sort of echo in Volare…. Here are the lyrics in English:

I think that a dream almost never returns:
I was painting my hands and my face blue.
Then suddenly I was coming, carried off by the wind,
And I was beginning to fly into the endless sky.

To fly, Oh!, Oh!,
To sing, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!
In the blue, painted blue,
Happy to be up there.

And I flew and flew happily to the heights of the Sun
And higher and higher into the sky.
While the world slowly, slowly
Disappeared in the distance down there.
Sweet music sounded
For me alone.

To fly, Oh!, Oh!,
To sing, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!
In the blue, painted blue,
Happy to be there.

But all the dreams vanish at dawn because
When it sets, the Moon takes them along,
But I continue dreaming in your beautiful eyes
That are blue like a sky dotted with stars.

To fly, Oh!, Oh!,
To sing, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!
In the blue of your blue eyes
Happy to be there.

But I continue to fly happily to the heights of the Sun
And higher and higher into the sky.
While the world slowly, slowly
Disappears in your blue eyes,
Your voice is sweet music
That sounds for me.

To fly, Oh!, Oh!,
o sing, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!, Oh!
In the blue of your blue eyes
Happy to be there.

Comparing the blueness of the sky and blue eyes is I am sure literally ancient. But getting lost in the sky by painting yourself blue and comparing that with getting lost in your lover’s eyes is definitely surreal. The original name of the song in fact, in English, is ‘In the blue, painted blue’.

In the midst of our text it could refer to an effort to join that ultraviolet world, the world of ‘blind’ drivers, losing oneself in that world…

There is a network of associations this poem seems to want to explore, a network I know nothing about, only uncovering second-hand in this roundabout fashion, and what it may be fishing for in this network, perhaps Volare, but more likely something else, I simply don’t know. It seems to be trying to say something, yet does it really say anything at all?

I would draw yet another likeness among these lines: reflections on Titan’s lakes, if they exist, are probably quite unique, as is this ‘ultraviolet’ race of car ‘enthusiasts’, as is this song, in more ways than one. Again the text seems to be a comment on this uniqueness in some way, drawing parallels between- among? – these varieties of uniqueness. What do we make of these parallels?

Perhaps if we shift our attention just a bit we will see another likeness; protective coloration or camouflage. The word crypsis is also used in this context, to borrow from the vocabulary of ecology, and refers to the ability of an organism to avoid observation. All of the lines in this text are comments on protective coloration.

This other race of human beings, sensitive to ultraviolet, blending with us in the maze of roads, the lover painting himself blue to vanish in the sky, an allusion to losing himself in his lover’s eyes, and last but not least the lakes on Titan without reflections; the surface of still waters here on Earth being a perfect representation of the idea of protective coloration, simply reflecting their surroundings, on Titan they absorb most light. The blackness itself stands out but at the same time reveals nothing of what is underneath or surrounding.

Now what do we make of this common theme? Without a doubt when I first put this text together- I hesitate calling it a ‘poem’- I can’t say this was in my mind. Still the idea lurks behind this mesh of words. The text itself was, for me, as cryptic as its theme.

Of course- does this race of human beings making their way through ‘our’ maze of roads by ultraviolet light really exist?- I am sure this is nothing but an extravagant fantasy.

What would that be like, crashing into one of their cars only to discover the driver couldn’t quite see us, trying to exchange information on our insurance companies… a television movie maybe but reality no way. At least not any more real than Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The fantasy itself was real. It was a bit of shiver down my spine. Where did the intimation originate? Who knows, who can answer that question? Still beyond those obvious questions the network of curious associations this text seems to plumb is something else.

People that are sensitive to ultraviolet light, the role of ultraviolet light in the climate cycles on Titan, Volare, in the blue, painted blue, and the idea of camouflage and protective coloration in species longevity, the use of ultraviolet dyes, to brighten clothing among other things, all of these things linked together through connections, sometimes a bit absurd, to ultraviolet light and crypsis, seems … odd?

“A camouflage garment laundered in typical laundry detergent laced with ultraviolet dye, added to brighten colors, may blend into the background when seen with the human eye, but the deer’s eyes are sensitive into the near ultraviolet portion of the spectrum, and the garment will stand out as a brightly colored object.”

See the article here.


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