“Blue on Blue” by Susan Maeder


Found in Willow Springs 68

There were tables of shining blond wood

in the restaurant in my neighborhood

where I took him on a dare.


Stiff white napkins,

too many glasses, too many forks

HIs chair had one short leg.


He splayed his fingers wide on

the white wall beside him. They appeared

more deep-sea blue than black.

He grinned. "See? That's you and me."


I laughed. The room hushed.

He held his hand there and pressed,

as if he might leave a mark like a bruise

when he withdrew.


I watched his eyes jump from this to that—

the lacquered card in his other hand,

the silver, the door, my lips,

the recessed corners of the room.


I felt the pressure of his knee against mine.


We never ate. We left that place.

We walked through streets of pumpkin orange—

it was Halloween—fastidious


red brick; one zigzag of neon

yellow. Victorian blue on blue.

This was my house. We went in.


This is the part where it all silks down

and the candles melt    and the space

heater groan    the phone rings twice


the fridge hums    and stops    and

hums again


there's probably music—saxophone

(grover washington jr—it 1976)    it's raining

the neighbor's dog is barking    it's raining


I'm counting

one two three    why am I counting? 


my eyes are closed

there's no silk    no melting

there's one word that cuts like a knife


four five six


and this is the part

where the rain    this is the zigzag

yellow part    the blue on blue    with the rain


coming down everywhere all at once

as if he drummed it down    comes slushing

through the gutters down   ruining


the perfect ripe    the sweet round pumpkins

with their cockeyed grins    when


the moon suddenly pops out

and I see everything

I can see everything now

even the rain itself

because there's both the moon and the rain

the moon lighting up the rain


and the moon is calling out commands

it's about the pills    it's about

the    tiny    liquid


the phone rings twice and twice

and now he's pointing at me

—is this how a knife looks?—

to cut triangle eyes and the jigsaw teeth


In that case I get to shine inside

I get to glow    I really want that light to stream

from where he carves me


But no—

It's just a pencil    or a pen    or

a wand    or a stick   and it has nothing to do with me


it's part of the Dream Time,

Aboriginal Magic, where you pinch

your own arm and your brother flinches

or you point the stick and your enemy drops

to the desert floor.


Now he's an owl

I care for the feathers, the hard-shell beak,

the elegant clawed feet,

draw out the long slow whooo of surrender



thunder    then    something like dawn.


When he comes scratching

again and again on my blue door

I'm gone


I've leaked out


I'm the panther

the mutant

the stain on the bedroom floor

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