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blue smoke
of melting clouds

On our way home from the botanic gardens, our skin still smelling of orchids, we dreamed about building a museum of all the colours in the world, all the pigments and what they’re made of and what the colours look like in their purest forms––or a museum of colour and memory that contains memories stripped down to their purest forms (the colour of them on the inside), the tints and shades of different feelings, and the objects that colour them. What we did not realise is that such a thing already exists.


deep ochre
made from iron oxide

Ella Yelich-O’Connor describes her experience of synaesthesia as seeing “clouds of coloured gas moving slowly closer and then away” when she writes music. The different notes and chords correspond to different coloured clouds.

In the same week that you sent me pictures of all the yellow you could find (yellow raincoat, yellow peach, yellow hothouse flower) I found a song that made me see yellow––the same colour as the faces of women and goddesses in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings. I wanted to play it for you but you said save it for somewhere beautiful, as if where we were wasn’t already so beautiful and we weren’t already travelling so fast that I sometimes felt like I might burn up like a broken fragment of a space shuttle entering the atmosphere and disintegrating over the ocean.


of neon dreams

We spend June nights in the apartment under the magnolia tree, its huge swollen leaves forming a canopy against the acid rain. In the early morning there is a wet sequined heart on the ground beneath green stained glass. At the top of the stairs we wake in a room of pink glow.

When I stand beneath the lights of the city it’s hard to separate out what is real, just like American film directors who confuse modern Asian cities for their post-apocalyptic neon sex fantasies. Answer: it is all real, all of it, even the burnt-up chemical sky that leaves a red taste in my mouth.


made from peach stones

It is like being inside clouds caught in perpetual dusk
                                             It is like being inside a Rothko painting

are both things I said to you after the art exhibition where we kissed in a black room that was part of an installation meant to be about total loss of perception. But all I could think of was my nerve endings like a million tiny solar flares reaching for the upper edges of your clouds, generating green magnetic waves between us in the dark.


saffron used as a pigment
in Medieval manuscripts


If I could step inside any Rothko painting it would be Saffron (1957) which is different from his other yellows because of the thin bright line that divides the colour fields, as they are called—as opposed to colour shapes or colour squaresor colour blocks, none of which are wide enough to contain light. The line that divides two yellow worlds glows along the edges like an electric current. If you stare long enough it seems to get bigger, slowly opening at one end until it forms a bright gap that you could just fit through by putting each one of your limbs inside, one by one, until you are swallowed by light and your skin is the colour of sunflower petals just before they die and you are either floating or drowning or both at the same time.

Nina MINGYA POWLES is a writer and zinemaker from New Zealand. She is the author of Girls of the Drift (2014) &Luminescent (2017), both published by Seraph Press. She is the poetry editor of The Shanghai Literary Review and currently lives in London.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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