Indigo, Earth, and Starry Sky

A cotton tea towel that I dyed in October 2019 at an indigo dyeing party coordinated by a colleague.

A few days ago, I had a sudden thought about indigo (the pigment that is drawn from several plants, including the indigo plant and woad) while praying, and I scrambled to write several lines of verse before it all left my head. It occurred to me — over a year after I dyed fabric using indigo for the first time (at a party, as I am not a craft person) — that the pigment is very, very Orphic, as argued below.

Argument I

The scent of indigo
heated within the vat —
hundred-handed Indigofera,
Isatis tinctoria, Persicaria tinctoria
is patchouli and soil after rain,
this liquid yellow like noonday
while where it touches air
it is as blue as Ouranos above.
O sacred blossom, flower of life,
you are a token of starry sky
mingling with fertile earth,
reminding all of the blood
sinking down into the ground
when Titans slipped through tall grass
to cut the throat of the encosmic king,
preparing his body for the feast.

Argument II

bind white cotton fast
it submerges like a soul
succumbing to Fate

yellow to sky-blue
each moment draws pigment deep
while shadows lengthen

release the tight bonds
thyrsus-bearers preparing
to welcome their king

🔷

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