Man in Tidal Blue


Photo courtesy of the Allen Memorial Art Museum

Man in Tidal Blue by Derrick Adams, 2017

There was the draft.  There was the war overseas.  There was the domestic base 

where I was stationed.  My education was saving me.  There was my work 

in the military laboratory.  I wore fatigues beneath my lab coat.  The substrates 

and reagents names were hidden from me in a code string.  I had one repeating 

function in the experiment’s chain.  There were relaxed regulations at our post.  

Some officers dispensed with our salutes.  Our hair grew out.  There was open dissent

among the officers at the off-base bar.  There was bullshit war.  There was a theatre.  

There were long walks along a lakeside beach.  I felt free to say I felt America 

changing insomuch as I joked around with white boys.  There was mutual laughing.  

Mock preparations to keep us in shape.  There was a sense we escaped the worst 

fates.  I was beginning to look forward to the future, like it belonged to me 

as certainly as the blue air.


Assistant Professor Chanda Feldman teaches Creative Writing at Oberlin College. Her poem, “Man in Tidal Blue,” is inspired by a pigment print of the same name at the Allen Memorial Art Museum (pictured left). The print by Derrick Adams has a companion titled Woman in Optimum Blue, also in the Allen’s collection. Neither print is currently on display.