Blue Five Notebook – (August 2013 / 13.15)
Jo Ann Tomaselli on photography and Sunset Marsh: “Defining myself as a particular type of photographer is impossible as every moment behind the lens offers an opportunity to see the world from a different point of view. My photographic goal is to show the world simplified, clearer, less complicated. My inspiration? Color, shape, design and the most delightful factor of all ~ fun! In my experience, discovering abstract illusions in nature is simply a matter of slowing down. Visually eliminating that which anchors one to the everyday landscape of life frees one to view an image on an entirely different level, creating an entirely new terrain.”
Blood: A Prose Poem
The first time we bleed and remember it, skin is torn and we look down where we are (a
playground, a backyard, our mother’s kitchen, a sidewalk, etc.) and notice a substance
that is clearly supposed to be on the inside of our body, on the outside, and wail at this
comprehension. It is so thin and red and willing to leave us. (What is willing to leave us
is a rather large category; its content, if deliberated on at all, should be left private.)
Alone in my room, I would feel the guitar vibrations through the floor, letting other
words and rhythms bleed into me.
To learn guitar your fingers must bleed and then form calluses. My best friend Sam
wanted to learn how then she found out about the calluses and said oh no thank you.
Blood is central to the narratives of many women, but not hers. I tried to learn guitar
several times, but would not bleed for it. When my stomach constricts it is not from
blood but hunger.
BLEED – a word used to describe the margin of space between the “E” string and the
edge of the fretboard. If a guitar has too little “BLEED” it won’t allow the player to
I am well aware how inflexible I am in spite of biology, the way in which I will not even
so much as move to cover paper I am writing on in the rain, watching the ink bleed and
bend without me. If it were not for that rigidity, would I continue to run like ink or blood
until I ran out? Even the deepest metaphors must be tempered.
I wonder if my ability to bite my cuticles has anything to do with the fact that I have
accepted blood, that a long time ago my attitude towards bleeding changed from: when
will it stop bleeding? to: will it stop bleeding? to simply noticing that my fingers, like
every other part of me, have the capacity to bleed and make use of it at various intervals,
sometimes, even on paper.
I had another teacher who said your writing in workshop is like a child when it is just
born. If writing is an act of creation, why should it remain painless? Why should it not
Sam’s story: A couple breaking up who wrote on each other with ballpoint pens that
made them bleed. It went on for several pages and never finished. Someone pointed out
that it was strangely violent and Sam did not notice. I thought it was kind of realistic, but
did not say so.
David’s Story: Two sisters who paint using one another’s menstrual blood. Sam and I
both rolled our eyes and stopped paying attention. You would need some kind of paint
thinner Samantha pointed out. I told her he probably hadn’t thought it through. Moral of
the story: When discussing blood, write what you know.
There is a sense of distrust towards anyone that bleeds continuously for several days and
does not die, never mind a lifetime. It is the fact that I have taken it on that worries me.
A fear of blood, of bleeding, seems so counter to the human condition. I have the type of
blood that can take anyone else’s, not the type that can be given to anyone else. Not all
blood is created equal.
But now the cold cracks open my lips so that I am reminded that they are fluid.
Possibility exists, even if we do not make use of it. My ex-boyfriend got nose bleeds all
the time, while dancing or laughing. Sometimes I wonder if it was just life rushing out to
meet itself, forgetting a container.
Blood always pushes us toward the extremes we can barely contain. I am thinking now
of sexdeathbirth because they encompass one another, the way blood will take anything
in without drawing boundaries. I am sorry that there is no single word that gets them all
across, the way blood can carry them all.
The first time I bled thick, I saw its potential not to birth but to kill, to drain someone and
was surprised that the imperative was not to stop it, but find something to absorb it and to
do that as quietly as possible. From now on bathroom doors get locked and bleeding is
your own business.
Dominikia Bednarska’s writing has or will appear in The James Joyce Quarterly, Palimpsest, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Bellevue Literary Review, What I Want From You: An Anthology of East Bay Lesbian Poets. Her poetry manuscript, Smothered Breath, is forthcoming. She teaches at U.C. Berkeley, where she completed her PhD in English and Disability Studies. Her full-length solo show, “My Body Love Story,” recently kicked off the 2012 National Queer Arts Festival at the Garage Theater in San Francisco. For more information, visit her blog.
James Lloyd Davis
The man who killed Molly Bloom
The story goes like this:
Molly Bloom was brilliant, disaffected, the prototypical wild child of 21st century American womanhood, the James Dean of her gender in the epoch. She died at the age of 24, a beautiful blondie, a blue-eyed angel in the world of letters, consumed with love for the squalor of her world and the victim of her own passion for me, the man who killed her.
It’s not really like that. More like:
Molly Bloom was flat-out crazy sometimes. The reason we slammed that truck on my Harley was that she put her hands over my eyes. I survived because of my helmet. She’d whipped off her own helmet and tossed it to the street about two blocks back.
I didn’t know, or I’d have stopped, gone back to get it.
People. Trust me. It was suicide and more like attempted murder where it concerned me. She loved that whole desolation angel scene. I think she was ready to die. God knows, after the damn funeral every Molly wannabe in America bought her novel, ‘The Soliloquy.” It was already big before she died, but it got hot, sat on the top of the New York Times bestseller list forever. Then they made that damn movie. Put the accident at the end of it, which wasn’t even in the book. The guy who played me was playing to the band with all that macho bullshit, hammed it, jammed it to the hilt. Got an Oscar out of making me look really bad.
I’m alone and pretty much friendless, suffering from the stigma, not unlike the Kurt Cobain/Courtney Love thing, but where Molly Bloom’s got the Kurt role, a damned unresurrected genius/saint/bodhisattva/zeitgeist and I’m the killer slut. A reversal of roles in gender, but a sign of the times, I guess.
So I got a haircut. Moved out of the apartment in Chicago. Went down to Corpus Christi and got a job in a refinery. I work nights. Nobody knows me.
Yesterday, though, some woman tracked me down, stopped me in the early morning as I walked out the main gate. Said she wanted to write a book about me. Said I was the hot topic. Not a hot topic. The hot topic. Hot fucking topic. “The man who killed Molly Bloom.”
Now, I have to move again. This time? I’m going to learn French and move to Montreal. The truth? I loved Molly more than I ever loved myself. Should’ve been me that died that day. Maybe it was.
James Lloyd Davis resides in Ohio with his wife, MaryAnne Kolton, who is also a writer. Currently working on a novel, James has published short fiction in numerous journals and anthologies in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK.
Faust in LA
Nervous and edgy where no one looks you in the eye
a shotgun-from-the-hip effect of ecology, here
everything outgrows itself like tenements along the fence
vying with wild, ugly weeds. This place was meant to be a desert
so howl while you can like the two-headed beast
feeding upon the mother lode where God and Zilla
trample skyscrapers, eat concrete and burp up tar.
Earth, shifting under layers of smog, a thousand reverberations
along the Boulevard, there’s a song and a dance for cheap.
Life scripted and panned by every glittery thing that ever shimmied
down that walk, a skirt hiked up past the point of no return, baby
nothing here’s for free try asking the homeless for a handout.
Funny, how it never thunders in LA and yet people still believe
in brimstone and fire who art not sinners in the hands of an angry god?
who believe in angels with blond halos riding limos—Those who can afford
that ladder for sale on every corner, dreams that come in Ziploc bags
and stars on sidewalks that never reached for the sky
and the myth continues about the hope of human salvage.
I’ve got your dream right here, baby
and I’ve got your number, I’ve got your life down in numbers
and I’ve got the dates of you arrival and your departures because
I know when to expect you and when to turn out the lights
because I know all about your loneliness and how it can kill
the roots of suffering no matter how close you stay to the ground.
This city was meant to stray and I’ve got a one-way ticket on a redeye,
believe me, I’ve got your name, I’ve got your face right here.
Once on the 33rd floor of the Beverly Hilton Hotel overlooking half the city
I was overcome by the lights laid out in a Southern Cross. This is where
you can believe in your version of heaven when you’re looking down
at all the world, whispering, “Mine is the kingdom! Mein! Mein! Mein!”
Mia is the editor of Tryst Poetry Journal. She has work accepted by Lavender Review and other publications. Previous publications include Poets / Artists, The Cortland Review, Brittle, OCHO, Quiet Mountain Essays and Blue Fifth Review.
Girl(s) on the 6 Train
Approaching the 79th Street Station
She sits across from me on the blue plastic bench, her eyes riveted to her Blackberry. Her hair is long, shiny, raven black. Her face is pretty, innocent, just like Jill’s was when I first met her. The girl’s lips are covered with a clear creamy gloss, the bottom lip slim and straight, the top one delicately curved like the bell of a tulip.
I force myself to look up at the placards that are slotted into the lighted channel above her head. I make myself read each and every word of the ad for St. Francis College before I dare to look down again. Only then do I notice her hands. Her fingers are long, moving deftly across the tiny keyboard, the nails perfectly sculpted — incongruously, they are painted black. Her palms are covered with fingerless leather gloves, a row of silver spikes gleaming up along her wrists.
Jill is too proper to ever wear anything like that. She dresses conservatively — prim pastel sweaters, crisply ironed jeans, oxblood loafers. She speaks softly and with perfect diction. My parents love her. Every time they take us out to dinner, Jill writes them a thank-you note that same night on her pearly monogrammed stationery.
Jill dumped me last week. By e-mail. Two brief sentences, one for each year we had been together.
My mind wanders. What would it be like to date a girl who wears spikes on her wrists? What other paraphernalia would I find in her apartment?
She catches me staring. I can picture my face spread out in a dopey grin. She snarls her lips, drops the Blackberry in her purse, gets up to leave the train.
“Asshole,” she says, loud enough for me to hear.
Pulling away from Grand Central
She enters the crowded car and stands directly in front of my seat, wraps her narrow arm around the pole. Her hair is reddish, cut short and blunt, matted on the sides. Her face is round and pinched, Irish looking, pleasant but not pretty. I stare at her pale bare legs, at the birthmark on her outer thigh that is brown and shaped like the wooden knight on my boyhood chess set.
Jill has a birthmark on the right side of her neck, just above the collarbone. It is the same shade of brown, oval-shaped like a tiny lopsided egg. I would kiss her there, long sucking kisses that used to make her shudder. I still can’t figure out what changed. Her e-mail hit me like a rock falling out of the sky.
A tall skinny boy who boarded the train with the red-haired girl grabs the pole somewhere above her head and leans away at a forty-five degree angle. He is wearing a grey T-shirt, pale yellow boxer shorts with a blue paisley design, bright green dress socks rolled down around his ankles. I would look like a clown if I dressed like that but on him it looks stylish. I hate guys like that.
The girl’s skin is damp from the humid afternoon air. Her peach-colored sundress clings snugly around her small shapely breasts. She looks up at him, smiles with faded blue eyes. He leans back in to kiss her. A bitter taste fills my mouth as I lift my gaze and begin to read again about the benefits of a St. Francis College education.
In a tunnel under Lafayette Street
An express train appears out of the dark and slows, clattering along beside me on the adjoining track. A girl sits alone in the first car, her profile framed perfectly in the sooty window. Her nose is long and elegant, her wheat-colored hair hangs in a loose braid over her right shoulder, her eyebrows are thick and dark. She sits perfectly still. For a few brief seconds, her train and mine glide forward at exactly the same speed, separated only by the row of steel columns that flicker by. I feel like I can almost reach out and touch her.
She turns her head slowly as if she knows she is being watched . Our eyes lock. The connection is immediate. She smiles sweetly, lifts her chin slightly like she is beckoning. Suddenly everything feels different. I have to meet her. If I do, I can begin to put Jill behind me, tamp down the anger and confusion. The car suddenly feels airless; beads of perspiration collect under my shirt, along my hairline. I click through the subway map in my head, calculate the distance to the next express stop, count the number of local stops in between.
“This is a downtown 6 local. Next stop, Bleecker Street.” The recorded voice is cold, pleasant, emotionless. I feel trapped. My train slows as it approaches the station . Hers gathers speed, hurtling toward the next express stop at Canal Street. I watch mournfully as it carries her away toward Brooklyn.
Ralph Uttaro grew up in New York, riding the subway system to school, carefully observing all of the passengers, especially the girls. He eventually married a country girl from Virginia and settled in Rochester, New York, where they raised two children and have lived happily for the past thirty years. His work has appeared in previous editions of Blue Five Notebook and in other publications such as Bartleby Snopes and Toasted Cheese.
Your Location Could Not Be Determined
The last time I checked
moonlight glazed the desert white.
I tapped out an informal Morse code
against the steering wheel
there at the side of the road,
but nothing was wrong.
I had stopped, shut the engine off
and opened my windows
to hear the tick of the cooling earth.
In the matrix of destiny
I was both on my way and not
trying anymore, my lungs
emptied then refreshed
like spring water issuing from the ground
with no more purpose than to
wash the bedrock clean.
Of the shadows around me
some shaped themselves
into hogans where the faint stars
sat in their ancient circles