Blue Five Notebook – (May 2014 / 14.9)
MADELEINE SLAVICK has authored several books of poetry, non-fiction, and photography, most recently Delicate Access (2004), (2010), and Fifty Stories Fifty Images (2012). Slavick lived in North America for 25 years, in Hong Kong for another 25, and now resides in New Zealand. She also lives online.
Sara Fitzpatrick Comito
The smell of honey
As nascent corpses breathe out their love
it congeals in a sticky ball with all the millions
and goes to live in my beehive.
Cracked amphorae of thuja and clove
grow in eucalyptus mushroom rings,
chaya moths harden in violet sugar
and fall to the waiting grass,
thyme and camphor streak red
borealis, gnats in last light turn coral
spawn in moonlight, swarms spin
sleeping spiders into hing.
We inhale and never have to eat again.
When the archaeologists appraise us,
they’ll know our cassia embalming by
the taste of our bark.
Sara Fitzpatrick Comito’s life trajectory (so far) takes the shape of a triangle across the U.S., from Massachusetts to Idaho to Florida. She lives in Fort Myers, where she has recently taken up beekeeping. Her work has been published in places like A-Minor Magazine, Thrush Poetry Journal, Metazen, and Red Fez. She edited the online literary journal Orion headless.
The Family Jewel
We have IVs hooked up to each other, back of the ambulance.
We could get fired, but for the amount of liability we have and the little pay we get, who cares.
IV is the quickest hangover cure on the planet. Trust me. If you ever feel like you’re dying from a hangover, contact a nurse you know. A medic. An EMT. Anyone who can hook you up with some intravenous cleansing. You feel like a new man. A new man ready to haul around drunks all night.
That’s what nights are in L.A. Drunks.
During the day, we take diabetics to dialysis. The overeaters. The hyperglycemic.
At night, the over-drinkers. The over-dosers. The over-overs. The ones wacked out of their head. And this is L.A. So just imagine how nutty I’m talking about. People that can make a transvestite Captain Jack Sparrow walking in and out of moving highway traffic look like a rather sober thing to do.
We’d just got done with a call. A teen girl needed to go to a psych ward. She said nothing. We bring her in. Room full of girls. Soon as she gets inside, soon as we turn her over, she throws over a table. Like Jesus with the moneylenders. When we had her, calm as a stilled ocean. Then the second I turn over the PCR, she goes ape-crap.
I love those kind of patients. She could see it in my eyes. That I was drunk. That I live in the hood. That I’m one of hers. Then she gets in with the nurses making quadruple what I make and realizes it’s time for them to earn their money.
My partner takes out his IV, moves to the front seat, rogers the call.
My favorite call, because it means “anything goes.” No idea what we’ll step into. I unplug and get passenger side. We’re there in minutes. A halfway house. We knock. A guy answers the door. He looks like Carrie. Every inch of him blood-soaked. They tell you BSI in medic school. Body substance isolation. It means, “Don’t get their blood mixed in with yours.”
He’s an epidural hematoma.
No big deal.
Alcoholics bleed a lot. Because they hit their heads a lot.
I can tell from his LOC, his skin, his airway, his entire demeanor that he’s far from shock.
He’s drunk and bloody.
I tell him to hop on the gurney, we’ll take him in.
He says he has to go to his room first.
He’s got a Buddha statue in his room. Just a bed, lamp, dresser, and plastic obese Buddha. Clothes on the floor. A carpet hanging in the closet.
He says he can’t go.
I ask why.
He says he needs to piss on the Buddha.
You need to what?
He pulls it out. You know, it.
My partner stands, arms folded. He hates psych patients. Says every drunk is a psych patient. Truth is, he hates all patients.
Half your medics, they’re like that.
My advice, if you don’t want to roll the dice, end up with a medic who’ll kill you, drive yourself to the hospital. Long as you think you can live ‘til you get there.
Stage fright, says the patient, I need someone to piss with me.
Can we do that? I ask my partner.
I once pissed on a guy’s leg who got stung by a jellyfish.
Right on the beach?
Front of everyone?
There wasn’t anybody there. Just him and his friends and they were drunk, thought it was funny.
I motion for him to go ahead.
He shakes his head no.
I say to the patient, if I piss will you go with us, I mean, without any complaints?
No, he says, and starts pissing. Right in the Buddha’s face.
The rest of the halfway house is asleep. They don’t care what’s going on. I’m surprised someone even called 911.
He finishes, shakes, picks up the Buddha, and sits on the gurney with it in his lap.
We wheel him into the ambulance.
My partner drives.
We have a deal—psych patients, he drives. Any patient with an injury to the eye, I drive.
I can’t stand eye injuries. We had a fishhook once. Caught deep. The pointy end posterior, into the vitreous humor. That jelly-like drainage made me want to quit the job on the spot.
Instead I made this deal. Not realizing we’d never have another eye call. But half our calls are psych patients. So I’ve been in the back with a man who kept asking me to stop making rainbows. A senior citizen who tried to rape me. A woman dressed like a werewolf who said she needed to get to Germany or the cowboys would kill her.
In comparison, epidural hematoma seems easy. The Buddha calming him.
I take his vitals. Hypertension, but mild. Tachycardic, mild. Tachypnic, mild. Sometimes it’s just the ambulance that causes that. The excitement of the ride.
He says, it’s nice what you do.
Yeah, I say, I’ve saved so many lives.
Tonight we had a sprained ankle and a common cold.
Two lives saved.
He holds the Buddha out. Motions for me to take it.
No, I say, thanks though.
He keeps holding it out.
I tell you what, I say, put it over there. He’ll be the new ambulance Buddha.
Everyone should have an ambulance Buddha, he says. No one will ever die in the presence of an ambulance Buddha.
We get to the hospital, drop him off, and go back to decontaminate. Rub down the gurney. Antiseptic towelettes. Takes a minute.
Partner sees the Buddha.
I tell him the patient didn’t forget it, that it’s ours now.
He says to throw it away, that it’s gotta be filled with bacteria.
Urine sterilizes, I say.
Not enough. Throw it out.
We stare at it. It stares at us. Piss in its eyes.
Ron Riekki’s books include U.P. (Great Michigan Read nominated and also nominated by National Book Award winner John Casey for the Sewanee Writers Series) and The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (Wayne State University Press, selected by the Library of Michigan as a 2014 Michigan Notable Book, a 2014 Midwest Book Award finalist, a 2014 Foreword Book of the Year Award finalist, and a 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award finalist). He’s twice been nominated for the Pushcart and once for Best of the Net. More info here and here.
spun air is not an empty
harvest, au contraire, inside
this camera is another room
where she lives, that other
girl in yellow frock and ribboned
pigtails yes on the other side
of the hallowed three-armed
altar she slides, right into
summer’s thieving the damp
discoveries of touch
me-nots, the hanging
from wrong sides of
everything, time, stairwells
graveyards, banyans, walls
of indifference, the invisible
is a box she can open
like music, listen
to metal pulses
of the beige hypnotist
metronome to a far
island in the hidden
country of afternoon sleep
when she awakes it is
twilight she is a woman
another made up dream
Sophia Pandeya’s work dwells in the liminal, engaging with borders that are linguistic, cultural, temporal, personal and geographical. The constant weaving and unraveling of these threads forms the fabric of her poetry. Publication credits include The Adirondack Review, The Lantern Journal, Convergence Journal, Cactus Heart, Askew Poetry, Bank Heavy Press, Spilled Ink, and Full Of Crow.
D R Jones
This afternoon sun is bloody hot. I’m sweating. My eyes sting. We reach the macrocarpa in the back paddock. It’s too boggy to get here on the quad bike in winter. But it’s the best place, I reckon.
Furtherest from the house. And the kennels.
“Don’t look at me like that, boy,” I say.
But he does. And keeps at it. His brown eyes question me.
“I don’t want this either,” I say, and I feel like a liar because it is this.
All Rex feels is uneasy. The feeling makes his tail hang. He lies in the grass, just out of reach.
He drops his head onto his paws. Sheep shit surrounds him and a bluebottle buzzes, but he’s not interested in chomping at it.
Gyp and Rex are the best heading dogs you could hope for. Hard working, smart as, best mates. Straightforward too. People are complex compared. Nothing new in that, though. Take Tim. He’s my cousin who farms down the line. Can’t stop at two or even ten beers for some reason. Begins at the bar, ends up on the floor. He’s mixed-up. I should talk to him, but it’s difficult. Dogs? They’re easy to deal with. Until now.
Kelly named them. It was over breakfast years ago. I remember the kettle whistling. And the song on Radio New Zealand. “Amor Gitanoby The Gipsy Kings,”Kim Hill had said from inside the tranny. “You know, do you not, that the opening line translates to ‘I want to fall in love with the master of my life.’ My goodness me. Make of that what you will,” she’d told us with that voice she has.
“Gyp and Rex,” Kelly’d said pointing to the puppies. “You’re their master.”
“Ok,” I’d said. “And the good thing about mongrels? No inbreeding, eh! Like Gypsies and Kings.”
Kelly had frowned. Thought I was being sardonic.
“Worse than sarcastic,” she’d explained to me.
Kelly’s my wife, or “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” as Harry calls her.
“You’ve got a good one there, Pat,” he likes to say.
“She’ll do,” I’ll usually say back. Sardonic.
Harry’s the vet. He’s the bloke who told me the poor mutt had Osteosarcoma.
“Cancer, Pat,” he’d made clear. “Of the bones. Nothing to be done, except…”
The macrocarpa looks like it has cancer too. Limbs all twisted hang like rope. At the base of the valley, clouds layer the horizon. Remind me of shrouds. The green paddock is burned brown this time of year. I love the landscape, usually it makes me feel good. So does Kelly. And my dogs.
“Sorry, mate. I’ve gotta do this,” I sigh.
Rex slinks to me, like he knows. I ruffle his head.
“Life’s not as simple as we’d like.”
I muster strength to raise my heavy spade. Its matai handle is worn smooth after years of use. I’ve recently whetted the stainless steel blade. I look after the things I love. It slices easily through the earth. Chaos, they call this stuff. Mainly clay which swells and shifts and slips with the weather.
Turmoil alright. Above and under ground. Right now, it’s forgiving enough. It doesn’t take long to dig a hole three-feet-deep and dog-length.
Rex whimpers but stays at my side.
“You’ll be ok, boy. It hurts for a bit. Better than months of suffering, though.” I’m not sure who I mean this for.
“Look away, boy. Please.” More sweat’s got in my eyes.
I raise the spade above my head and bring it down one last time. It’s like an axe tearing into mud.
Then there’s a sharp crack as the blade hits something solid.
So that’s that.
I lean on the handle, out of breath. Then, with my foot, I nudge the muslin next to me. It’s wrapped around Gyp’s stiff carcass. She plops into her grave.
Rex whines and shivers.
He’d cowered when I wedged the spade in the ground. I half expected him to bolt. Must’ve been afraid I was going to wallop him. After seeing the vet poke something into Gyp, then following me and the package with a confusing scent of Gyp, and watching me dig a hole in the shape of Gyp, he must be unsettled, so who can blame him?
But Rex doesn’t shoot off from where he stands as sentry.
“It’ll be ok,” I say. “You’ll get a new friend.”
And again, I’m not sure who I mean this for.
DR Jones lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Twitter: @anonauth
In a 2012 Waiting Room
– after Bishop
I don’t sleep so well the night before
my physical, all the bad outcomes
parading, and then there I am, on a couch
in a waiting room that can’t be so different
from the Worcester Mass one where little
Elizabeth read a Geographic
straight through and heard her aunt’s short cry,
what propelled her into the big questions.
And now, ninety years later, I’m having
my own waiting room magazine crisis –
it’s this column in the new Esquire
forbidding men my age from ever
saying the word, Dude, again . . . in public . . .
what is my life-changer, the affliction
I never considered all last night –
how today would be death-of-Dude-day,
yet here’s the jolt a waiting room holds,
the same slap the little Bishop girl took,
how she was a six-year-old she unlike
any other she who had come before.
Same as me who now hears my name,
my secret dog-whistle of life
spoken by the Doc, and look, he’s smiling,
his yarmulke perfect, this dress-up
a big part of our role-playing game.
He’s Orthodox, I’m gentile, he knows
his place, I know mine, he snaps on his
plastic gloves . . . I . . . wait, I don’t have any,
that’s right, I’m the one who undresses,
I’m the one who bends over the table,
he’s the one who tells corny jokes as a
social KY jelly while he touches
me in a way that might even produce
those words every lover so longs to hear,
Baby, no one ever does me like you do,
a platitude that can come out hollow,
but with my boy, I mean, the Doc, I don’t
even have to say it because he knows . . .
it is unsaid between us same as
I knew this once-a-year penetration
was coming yet still it’s such a bug-eyed
surprise, it makes me want to holler, Duuude, . . .
but I don’t because the next person
in the waiting room might be reading
that Esquire and hear me and maybe
write a better poem than this one,
so I just bite the tongue that is my tongue.
Go down Moses. Rise up Jah people,
cause we’re jamming in the name of the Lord,
the big we, and I’m the little I,
the me that is a he, and stranger still
we never fall off this spinning world.
Rupert Fike’s collection, Lotus Buffet (Brick Road Poetry Press 2011), earned him the Finalist award (2nd place) as Georgia Author of the Year. His work has appeared in Rosebud, The Georgetown Review, Natural Bridge, The Atlanta Review, The Cortland Review, storySouth, and others. Fike’s non-fiction work, Voices from The Farm, accounts of life on a spiritual community in the 1970s, is now available in paperback.