On the Orange Jumpsuit
His orange jumpsuit shimmers. It’s wrong to watch
but the orange is exuberant.
Christo called it saffron.
A table of pashmina in the sun against blossoming
pear near the plaza. Especially delicious is the orange shawl,
although I can't stop staring. The scarf a counterpoint to my habit of blue.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi in Cuba.
“I was wrapped in Afghani cloths . . .”
Guantanamo procedures state “in-processing
of detainees involved cutting away
of old uniforms
and the issuing of the orange suit.”
James Foley is signaling a message in Morse code, I decide.
It’s defiance, not fear. Orange means gluttony.
Also the second chakra. Also amusement and poison.
Van Gogh searched for orange, hoping it would
“harmonize the brutality of extremes . . .”
Jumpsuits come in hot pink, yellow, lime green,
navy, khaki, chocolate brown, grey and high security Velcro orange.
With matching socks. Bob Barker, not the game show host,
started his prison supply business in the 1970s.
First he sold slushy machines. Now the company offers color-coded
handcuffs. I don’t know how to write that poem.
It must be the sun, though it’s a myth women blink
more than men. James Foley’s mouth is a slash in the sky.
We blink 29,000 times a day. I pause the video to see if there’s a pattern.
My heart accelerates. I click and count, telling
no one and then the video disappears from the site.
The next time I watch James Foley blink
I notice his forehead, how the large vein called the
supratrochlear strains against skin. I’m also watching
Chicago Fire, and this week someone is being extricated
from a burning car. Or building.
Maybe it’s that someone is about to jump.
I haven’t worn the orange pashmina in years, and it’s probably
not made from the wool of a Himalayan mountain goat.
“Life was suddenly blown into
uniforms shattering in a prison yard.
Dance the orange, said Rilke about the fruit not the color
but really he was thinking of death. The marigold is called
flor del muerto, flower of the dead. What about the blood orange.
When news of Stephen Sotloff’s beheading comes in the fall
I watch him as he kneels in a rocky landscape,
bright backdrop for his orange.
I think of Rilke’s instruction and how the color
fights, drowning itself in its own taste.
Later there are jumpsuits everywhere. Even the double yellow line
looks orange as I drive. Bulletins about
David Haines. The pilot in the cage.
Children used in a protest photo.
The line of orange men walking on the beach.
The history of orange is about a word
that begins in Sanskrit as naranga-s, flows to
Persian narang and into Arabic as naranj
then to old French
where the n disappears along a riverbank
snagged by a willow root.
In England the fruit arrives before the color
known as yellow-red until the 16th century
and there’s no true rhyme.
It’s true we give in to distraction
as if it’s a murderer,
there, waiting to kill.
When Mohamedou Ould Slahi is taken to Jordon they give him a clean blue outfit.
He writes that uniforms represent “backwards and communist countries.”
The pashmina’s glow, Slahi’s diary, the news,
the sky over a snowfield at dusk,
my eyes tracking so much orange, meandering
like Christo’s panels, which are installed in 2005
as Slahi flows into his sixth year of detention.
You don’t own your jumpsuit no matter the color
and it’s really not like stepping into the same river,
jumpsuits rushing their orange through history.
I find it difficult
to stop thinking
about James Foley.
To stop looking.
Is that to let go.