Current Issue

Blue Five Notebook – (April 2014 / 14.7)

Langa Township Hostel by Martyn Ferry

Langa Township Hostel by Martyn Ferry

Artist, Martyn Ferry, was born in London but grew up in the peaceful climes of Hertfordshire. After studying art and photography in Cambridge he moved back to London and spent a few years working as a commercial photographer, which put him off photography for a while, until he spent two and a half years travelling throughout Australasia and Asia where he well and truly got the bug again. Since then he has specialized in landscape and nature photography of all kinds. He lives and works in the Cotswolds. More at his photography website.

Langa Township was taken when Martyn visited South Africa in 2012. Martyn writes, “Langa was established in 1927 as part of the Urban Areas Act, and is one of the many areas in South Africa designated for Black Africans before the apartheid era. It is the oldest of such suburbs in Cape Town and was the location of much resistance to apartheid. This is looking out from one of the hostel blocks into the community area beyond. These hostels still house many thousands of families, in extremely overcrowded conditions, while they wait for more suitable housing to become available.” More here.

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Susan Terris

Doggerel: No Love Is Like First Love

First love is the do-over you don’t get to do over,
so please tell me how fat and bald he’s

gotten, that his email is Panache, that he collects
barbed wire and very young girl friends.

First love is for writing doggerel and practicing
your first name with his last on flyleaves of

your school texts. Hmm. . . actually, first love is
a lot like fly fishing: the one who got away, who—

if allowed—will, with each retelling, become slicker,
wilder, bigger. But first love needs to be put with

gardenias you pressed in the dictionary under G.
Best love is what happens late or later. It’s the sweet-

pungent hit, thrill of knowing it’s all right
to be flawed and with someone as flawed as you.

Susan Terris’s books include The Homelessness of Self, Contrarwise, and Fire Is Favorable to the Dreamer. Her work has appeared in many journals, including The Southern Review, The Journal, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers from Field appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. She is the editor of Spillway Magazine and poetry editor of In Posse Review and Pedestal. In recent years, she has won both the George Bogin Award and the Louis Hammer Award from the Poetry Society of America. In 2013, The Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems was published by Marsh Hawk Press. Her book MEMOS will be published by Omnidawn in 2015. Read more information here.

 

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Foster Trecost

A Bar for All Occasions

Nights like this don’t happen often, nights when I wander the streets of an unknown village. Dark and quiet streets. But there I was, alone when it shouldn’t have mattered, but alone nonetheless, and not wanting to be.

I walked until I found a light shining through a tiny window, the first sign of life I’d seen. I thought someone left it on by mistake, but I wanted to be sure. Closer, I could see it wasn’t a mistake at all, rather a gathering place of sorts, perhaps the only one the little village had to offer. If not, surely the only one open. Companionship awaited–I’d go in and buy someone a drink, and he’d buy me one back. We’d talk and tell stories, listen and ask questions. And drink some more. Before walking in, I peered through the tiny window to gain a preview, get a feel for where I’d be, but my expectations were quickly eclipsed, and the things I saw brought back my loneliness. I stared at a morbid bunch of men, each one sitting alone. No talking, no music, just stone faces that moved only to sip and swallow.

The camaraderie I hoped for would not be found. I went in anyway, sat among them, became one of them.

With nothing said between sips, cocktails disappear long before ice melts. After three I stood to leave. I hadn’t bought a drink for anyone; my only words had been to the barman. The other men there seemed like they were somewhere else, and it was time I went somewhere else, too. Just before I opened the door, someone stopped me, grabbed my arm at the elbow: “We’re all glad you came; thanks for stopping by.”

Glad I came? I turned to see who appreciated my presence. I scanned the room, the same room I’d been for nearly an hour, but the people I saw weren’t the people I had sat with, rather they were the people I’d hoped to find. Their stone faces had animated to life, smiles shone at me, glasses raised to hearty here-here’s. I gave them a confused smile and left.

Outside, after a few steps I turned around and went back to the tiny window, unsure of what I’d see if I peered through again. I stopped before I got there. It didn’t matter. I wanted to go home, but backtracked to my hotel instead.

Foster Trecost is again writing in New Orleans, which is where he’s from. He misses Italy terribly, Phllly not so much, and Texas not at all. But (for) now he’s home.

 

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Heather Dobbins

Alzheimer’s White

The sky can’t decide
if it has enough clouds to rain.
Spring azaleas, hedges trimmed with rusted clippers.

Cloroxed socks and pearls just in case.
Blanched linen: we hand-iron white hair,
a sunless face.

My Mamaw keeps three lipsticks in her hand
because she can’t remember where her purse is.
She was right when she warned me,

We tend to lose our lip color early on.

We had to take the mirror down.
She kept talking to her mother, herself.
Sweet she’s called, just like my great grandmother was—

sugar and uncertainty.

A beacon’s light eddies on the sea,
an acceptance of what has come and what
will be. Four generations of women.

The tidal steps missing between them.
White light: a triangle’s sum unknown,
degrees unsure, how long, when

we will not know each other,
when milk, too, will take our eyes.

Heather Dobbins’s poems have appeared in Big Muddy, The Southern Poetry Anthology (Tennessee), and TriQuarterly Review, among others. She was a featured poet for Beloit Poetry Journal last June. After ten years of earning degrees in California and Vermont, she returned to her hometown of Memphis. Her debut, In the Low Houses, is forthcoming in March from Kelsay Press.

 

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Bonnie Zobell

Mr Nipple Apologizes

The weekend before Neon Narcissist’s concert, Mark Nipple made a point of being home late in the afternoon when his son, Aubrey, usually awoke. At 4:00 p.m., he found Aubrey standing before the open fridge scavenging for his first meal of the day, the light beaming onto his bare torso. Wearing only Levis, Aubrey drank milk straight from the carton, took a bite of someone’s donut, then put it back.

“I’m sorry,” Nipple told his son. “I competed instead of supporting your creativity.” Nipple had been in a band at his son’s age, Hell in Handcuffs, and couldn’t seem to stop offering pointers.

“Hmfflppll,” Aubrey said, immediately escaping to another room, Nipple following.

Aubrey slumped onto the velvet ottoman in the Nipple living room and sneered. “Apology not accepted. You were never in the running.” His blond hair was in dreadlocks, his beard shaved into three stripes that met at the tip of his chin. His nasal septum was pierced as were his eyebrows, and he had three-inch ear plugs that his mother said deformed him.

“Now, Aubrey.” Nipple sat, hands clasped, head bowed, hoping to appear philosophical, but what his son said stung. He pondered a framed Botero his wife Anita had hung in the hallway, a large nude with a dimpled ass. Back in college, his punk band had made girls cry. A hot commodity at keggers, Hell practiced hard, drank and did drugs with the best of them. Never the coolest, he always sat in the back corner with his drums. If only the lead guitarist hadn’t started swallowing girls’ house keys onstage. The last one did him in.

“I’m proud of what you’ve done with Neon Narcissist, son. You’ve got talent.”

Aubrey shook his head and slammed out the front door.

These days, Nipple was a graphic artist, a job using at least a little of his creativity and producing a steadier income than Hell had once Anita became pregnant. His specialty was rock album covers. He’d surprised Neon Narcissist with one of his best, but his son had said it was all wrong.

That Friday, Anita and he prepared to go to Neon’s concert.

“You’re not wearing the Hawaiian shirt again, are you, Mark?” Anita asked. “You’ll embarrass him.” They appeared in front of the mirror both wearing black Neon Narcissist t-shirts, Nipple with a black bandana tied over his head to hide what had happened to his hairline.

He stepped back. “I think he said you’re never supposed to wear the t-shirt of the metal band you’re going to hear.”

“We’re his parents,” Anita said. “Mierda!”

Inside The Casbah, beer was clearly flowing by the way kids bumped into each other. Nipple decided to get one himself.

“They’re not going to have your Dos Equis,” Anita said.

“I don’t need Dos Equis to be happy. I’ve been to plenty of keggers.”

They held hands when Neon Narcissist stumbled onstage, Aubrey at the lead. Like the other three band members, he wore all black, black leather spiked cuffs, black vest. With one of his heavy black boots, he kicked a Coke can halfway across the auditorium. He growled into the mike.

And then the music enveloped them, feedback from the amps, squeaks, drums so loud they beat all other thoughts from your head, stripped your brain of meaningless day-to-day shit, left only the primal. Nipple knew Anita had brought earplugs, but he closed his eyes, beat his head to the sound, let go. From his old music days, he picked up the blues rhythms, the distorted guitar, the constant beat of drums that wouldn’t allow you to hang onto polite society but demanded you riot. The harshness of the music cloaked the aggressive lyrics, but Nipple’d already read Aubrey’s words, knew the anarchy they embodied, the nuclear annihilation. The speed of the riffs, the discordance, created some huge wall he had no desire to climb out of.

He opened his eyes. Two distinct lines had formed in the audience, all kids, facing each other as Neon tore up their guitars. Aubrey grunted and groaned before launching into an anthem he’d written about Son of Sam.

Nipple stood, Anita tugging at his sleeve, almost ripping it to make him sit back down, but he would not. He removed her grasp finger by finger, then walked over to join the group. He knew about mosh pits, but why had two lines formed? The amplification of sounds prevented verbal communication, but bodies could be felt beside each other, animal smells, power. The crowd started a countdown. When they reached one, the two lines ran straight into each other, bodies squeezing, jumping. One guy slugged another in the face and somehow Nipple ended up cheering, too. He flailed his arms, crashed into more bodies. Suddenly he was airborne, being thrown by different sets of hands, until he felt himself slipping head-first to the floor.

When he opened his eyes, he could tell time had passed. The room was bright and white. Heaven? Then he saw blood on his clothes, a doctor and a nurse. Anita was perched beside him on a bed, holding his hand.

Condénele!” she said when she realized his eyes had opened. “How could you, Mark? I thought you were dead.”

A nurse patted her shoulder. “Let’s not excite him, ma’am. He needs calm.”

Apparently, they’d already given him a lot of tests. A few hours later, Nipple was released. Anita drove, helped him straight into bed.

He awoke the next day to Aubrey standing beside his bed, staring, crumbs of his toast freckling the carpet. “Saw you got to taste the Wall of Death in the mosh.” It’d been a while since Nipple had seen him smile.

“People don’t get it, but it’s a release,” Aubrey said.

Nipple nodded. “Great show, Aubrey. Really.” He held his hand up, and the two shook.

Aubrey leaned against the wall. “Still think your college band was better?”

“Just a little,” Nipple said.

Bonnie ZoBell’s new book, What Happened Here, a novella and connected stories, was pre-released at AWP 2014 by Press 53. Her fiction chapbook, The Whack-Job Girls, was published in March 2013. Visit her at www.bonniezobell.com.

 

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Mercer Bufter

Setting the Piles

This is meant to be the work of setting
things right, but what would the Choptank

River care if the pier popped up
piling by piling and floated toward the open

Bay? What else returns with the swans
and the blue crabs? Rainbows of gasoline

from inboard and outboard engines, drippings
of wood stain and sealant marshaled against

the sun, meant to keep pressure-treated wood
from splintering in the heat of the day,

the noise of ride mowers and highway traffic.
I set the piles in the springtime with a hose

and a long piece of copper tubing. I work
the tip of the mosquito-like needle down

around the edges of the pilings, moving the silt
and mud away with the force of water

so that I can shove the great wooden nail
back into the earth, setting my palms

one on top of the other on the hammered
copper top, green around the edges,

throwing my body up and coming down
on it, driving it in the mud with my weight.

I make each piling even with the others.
This is supposed to be the work of

“setting things right” but you push and push
until your jumping and leaning

only pulls the piling loose again, until
you’ve driven the thing as deep as it’s
going to go, and it quietly, gathering

force you could never bring to bear,
resists, at last, further driving.

Mercer Bufter studied poetry at NYU and my work has appeared in journals such as Measure and The Portland Review.

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