Blue Five Notebook – (April 2015 / 15.7)
Artist, Jake Ford is an artist, photographer and poet living in East Tennessee.
The Dot Con
I thought that you
were seeking a self-starter
an independent thinker
a free spirit who had a
sixth sense of the marketplace
who could anticipate
what hungry young professionals
and the gentrified generation
wanted when they switched
on and plugged in their
but now I see you just wanted
me to affirm this company’s
right to shove your
for quality, meaning and love
down the online throats
and so I resign
to the pearly
Bill Gates of
Ivan Jenson is an artist, novelist and contemporary poet. His artwork has been featured in Art in America, Art News, and Interview Magazine, and has sold at auction at Christie’s. Jenson was commissioned by Absolut Vodka to make a painting titled “Absolut Jenson” for the brand’s national ad campaign. His Absolut paintings are in the collection of the Spiritmusuem, the museum of spirits in Stockholm, Sweden. He is the author of two novels, Dead Artist and Seeing Soriah, as well as a collection of poetry, Media Child and Other Poems (Hen House Press).
A mezzuzah on a doorpost would need, for installation, a sensitive, rabbinic screw, a kabbalistic fastener. You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
But this one, at the back door of my unit in the Mental Hell System, Unit 333, has been affixed with stout nails, the likes of which the world has not produced for many decades, with the strange rectangular head sloping down to a point, with a praying mantis’s grace.
That mezzuzah has hung there unmolested, for over fifty years. It was put up by a refugee, who came from Europe, quite disturbed, quickly institutionalized. Out on grounds privileges, he saw ahead of him the unit for the criminally insane, with its tall smoke stack. He thought it was something else and, suddenly, was in four places at once, none of them good. So he hung himself behind his unit, in sight of the secret mezzuzah he had nailed up, like boarding up a shop he would never operate again.
I find notes I’ve written to myself, sometimes in the middle of the night when I don’t even know I’m writing them. I’m sleep-writing, the way my son used to sleepwalk. Many of them are about my grandfather, who put up the mezuzah, then hung himself.
After high school, my son joined the Coast Guard, and was doing well until he got his wish—a posting on an ice breaker bound for the Arctic. He would have done better on a land station because, during the shake-down cruise, in the middle of the night, he was discovered sleepwalking on the deck in his skivvies. Farewell, Coast Guard.
My sleep activities don’t have such consequences. Nevertheless it disturbs me when I awaken and find cryptic messages on my desk from myself to myself. Nails are rusting, need replacement.
Last night’s was: Laughter—deleted, which bothered me. It seemed so dour, so much of an omen of catastrophic times, this in the same week my psychiatrist suggested I might want to get off Zoloft. Zoloft is my good friend, yet a friend who betrays me. He prevents me from imbibing the three-hundred-dollar bottles of wine I love, and the Colorado whiskey, Stranahan’s, in whose distillery my son works. He gives me premium bottles I can’t drink. They go into my pantry.
I’d like to open one, take a swig, once I get off Zoloft and I don’t delete laughter. Laughter cannot be deleted, regardless of what I promised myself in code.
Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over six hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the US and abroad. He has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.
My priorities are constantly under evaluation.
By whom and for what reason I can’t fathom.
The whodunits gain on me, dog me into oblivion,
then the gotta die to get to heaven zealot faction
almost demolishes my libido. Kerouac going out
with a bang and Cassady nary a whimper
affirm the notion that fame produces
no magic potion. Down through the ages
man has demonized those parasites that prey
on the prostrate. Frosting on the cake
only comes after wiping pie from the puss.
Anecdotal paradigms regularly well up in minds
that are programmed to take time thinking things.
This no strings attached approach when applied
to a priori rationales dehumanizes parasites
so that they can’t invade the brains
of living creatures in any universe.
The holy grail is everyplace, Excalibur
extracted from the stone even before
it became embedded. Sedentary sentences
give one the impression
that heaven’s pearlescence
is up for grabs as soon as this sunset.
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry and interviews have appeared in Nimrod, Portland Review, Kestrel, Cream City Review, Poetry Salzburg, Boston Poetry Magazine, Gertrude, The Bacon Review, and many others. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices In Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poems. He lives in Marina, California.
Vicki L. Wilson
“When it’s bare — no more blossoms — I’ll get the axe and chop it down,” I say.
We sit outside, the tree in front of us full of popcorned-pink puffy branches. Too pretty, too delicate.
Cora passes me a Rolling Rock. I sit in a white plastic Adirondack chair and Cora is in a green canvas camping chair. The neighbor’s dog barks and rattles the chain he is tied to.
“How did it even get here?” Cora asks, gesturing to the cherry blossom tree with her green beer bottle.
“I don’t know. It’s been here forever.”
I look past the tree. The part of the lawn that meets the woods behind the trailer is lined with old tires, two broken sheds, and other garbage. When I was ten, I cut my leg on some tin from an old roof back there and my father complained about the cost of my stitches and the tetanus shot.
We were poor. Others would call us other things. Even to this day, in my rental house just outside the city, I cannot leave my trash in front of my house for the garbage men to take. I take it to the dump myself. I will not put trash on my front lawn. I mow. I pull weeds. I plant begonias.
“I just don’t think you should cut it down,” Cora says.
Cora and I have never had a thing together, not even now, in our twenties, when it’s almost impossible not to have things. We’re friends. Like brother and sister. Getting together any other way might have kept us stuck here.
The cherry tree is the only dignity for miles. Next door is Charlie, a man who never cleans his beard and leaves his dog chained up and dirty. Two houses over is a man with a rusted-out tractor on his front lawn with a sign hanging from it that says “Never mind the dog, beware of owner.” It’s true. This is that county you heard of in the 70s where someone put razor blades in apples for Halloween.
Cora’s argument is that, since the tree is the only beautiful thing left here, we should leave it, as though a tree can change a place. But all I can think of is my mother, young, with sheared-short hair and the most elegant collarbone any man has ever seen, picking up the fallen blossoms and letting them flutter from her fingers in a breeze. She waited for the damn tree to blossom every year, and then it just tossed its petals away in a handful of days, regardless of how long she had waited for them.
“You have mommy issues,” Cora says.
“So I do,” I say, smiling, but not fully. I drink the last of the beer in my bottle. On the front lawn is a thin, plastic realtor’s “For Sale” sign stuck on a wooden stick. A realtor is actually selling this place. My mother knew enough not to leave it to me. Her will says to sell it without me.
Cora stands up and brushes off the back of her pants. These chairs are always dirty with bird shit or dust.
“Let’s go.” She holds her hand out to me and I take it and stand.
We both look at the cherry tree. Cora is shading her eyes from the sun with her hand at her forehead. “I’d say you have two more days,” she says.
I assess. Maybe two days. Or maybe just one day with good wind, and all the blossoms will blow across the rusty barbed wire that outlines Charlie’s back yard. I will come back in three days to make sure the tree is bare. I don’t want to have to come back after that.
Cora and I set our empty beer bottles on the back steps, ready to go.
Why even come back? I think.
“Do you even have an axe?” she asks, as though she can read my mind.
I leave Cora where she’s standing and my legs walk hard and wide, so that I am in the shed attached to the trailer in five steps. The axe handle is smooth, the head black and dented around the blade. With it, I almost run to the tree, gripping the handle like a baseball bat.
“Nelson!” Cora shouts.
In front of the tree, I stop and pull the axe back like a golf club, behind and over my shoulder, ready to swing through the trunk or the branches, wherever the blade meets wood first. “Ahhhhhh,” I yell at the tree like a banshee. I stomp my foot. Then, I’m quiet, and for the first time all day, I notice the wind pushing through branches and lifting my hair.
Cora has moved to stand opposite me on the other side of the tree, almost hidden by the pink, watching.
I breathe. I put the axe down. There is nothing but the wind and blossoms flying.
“I think your mom would’ve wanted you to leave the tree alone,” Cora says, quietly, looking at her feet.
“I know,” I say. But she never got a damn thing she wanted.
So. This once.
Cora walks to me and takes the axe from my hand. She lays it on the ground.
“Let’s go,” she says.
Her car is in the driveway. Cherry blossoms have blown everywhere on the wind — on her hood, across the front lawn. Scattered everywhere. Cora and I get in the car.
“Let’s get some dinner,” I say from the passenger seat. She pulls the car out of the driveway.
A few cherry blossoms lie on the car’s dash. I pick them up one at a time while we drive, feeling their softness. Some have already browned around their edges. I lift my hand and let them go out the window, like ashes.
Vicki L. Wilson is a freelance writer, fiction writer and poet living in upstate New York. Her work has appeared in publications internationally.
Angela La Voie
To a Young Woman, on Entering Corporate Life
Here, shall I give you a platinum key?
Learn to give a presentation whose subject
changes moments before you enter
some gray and black room that’s windowless
or gazes at a strange city. Maybe hills form
beyond the skyscrapers, or the buildings stretch
in a featureless ring. Find yourself
rattling with enthusiasm over some new product line
because of a contract incentive clause that has
nothing to do with you. Polish your thighs with loofah,
delay dimpling flesh. Moan and sigh with satisfaction.
There are feelings and then there’s sex.
Wear the right blouse to look no more beautiful
than the fruit platter on the stone conference table
the next time you deliver said bullshit presentation
on demand. The presenter, the platter, the caterer—
fixtures. And still, each week, you must
comb the produce bins for five golden apples that will bring
eternal life. Give thanks to the field hand,
each truck and hand that delivers life-redeeming apples
to keep yourself human, more than a data plot
on a performance chart. Hide your surprise
when you are one of three women in the breakfast room
of your executive hotel. See, there, you’re busy
studying asset ratios, perhaps these can sustain you,
if the zipper of your designer handbag opens wide enough.
You must learn to be vulnerable instead of strong,
swallow tears when called for but not otherwise,
measure tonal variation of your interlocutor,
limp to arrive sooner than if you’d leapt.
Angela La Voie is an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction and poetry at Antioch University Los Angeles. In 2013, she was selected as a finalist in the Catharsis Journal memoir competition. Her poetry is included in the Self-Portrait Poetry Collection and forthcoming in Clerestory Poetry Journal.
Comment on April Issue.