Synesthesia in a Popcorn Store by Jennifer MacBain-Stephens

Synesthesia: A neuropsychological trait in which the stimulation of one sense causes the automatic experience of another sense –


We have everything. The girl behind the counter doesn’t seem to fit in this pink place with her

gray sweatpants.  She tells me the color relates to the flavor. Caramel, vanilla, cheddar,

chocolate puppy chow: they are all variations of browns and oranges. I buy caramel cheddar and

eat it at the counter to stay warm. My fingers turn brown. I taste bark and the forest out west. I

sample the cheddar: I taste the idea of crispy and BBQ. Sometime in there, fatigue spreads over

me like sugar sauce. The effort of sitting in this color, of staying awake, while eating and staring

out the window, I feel dread.  I try not to look it up on the internet. Why do I feel dread? What

color does that taste like?  I eat different colored popcorn. I try to tamp down the gray with blues

and reds, and bright greens. My tongue shimmers in seas and tamales and dandelion salad. My

fingers turn teal. I take a breath. I walk out.  My color is the color of the disappeared. I find my

way back to you across the river. You are yellow T shirt and smile and smell like bug spray. My

right ear warms from the wind because you cup your palm around it. My ear turns maroon.  I

kiss your skin and leave a magenta lipstick mark. I feel the warmth and the sweetness of you in

my mouth. You taste like the sun falling into the lake.

Jennifer MacBain-Stephens (she/her) went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and now lives in Iowa where she is landlocked. Her fifth, full length poetry collection, “Pool Parties” is forthcoming from Unsolicited Press in 2023. She is also the author of fifteen chapbooks and enjoys exploring how to blend creativity with nurturing the earth. Recent work appears in The Westchester Review, Cleaver, Dream Pop, and Grist. She is the director of the monthly reading series Today You are Perfect, sponsored by the non-profit Iowa City Poetry. Find more of her work at