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Five poems by Julie E. Bloemeke

Updated: Aug 15, 2022

Slide to Unlock


after the iPhone entry screen, 2007—2016


Caught in the present tense,

we are continuously poised


to receive its three-word

command, the insistence


we open with a fall:

Slide.


Involuntary,

we unknowingly slip


into habit, press

our print from left


to right, unaware

of what uninvited


light will bow our heads.

When this trinity opens


our bodies, we respond

with our curious hands.


We no longer read the words.

A call expects an answer, a dark


screen, a touch. We are undone

by the promise of resolution,


temptation. Once, we could depend

on the corded spiral of miles,


delay ourselves with the orbit

of finger wheel, change


the exchange with a switch

hook. We could even leave


the rotary to ring, unheard

in the absence. Then, we


housed it for distance,

carving an alcove


into the wall.

Hold the line, we said.


Now, we are keyed constant,

pocketing names, waking


to flashes, feeling through the dark

before we open our eyes,


our cells carrying

the call of possible.


There is no signal

to prepare us


for the arrival

of that unresolved name,


its bright trick of letters.

It arrives after decades of silence,


the demand for an answer

so pressing it stings a vibration,


its invisible stigmata left

in our unsuspecting palms,


an irrevocable consequence

of reach out and touch someone.





Côte d’Azur, Seventeen Years Later


after Claude Monet’s “Antibes Seen From La Salis,” Toledo Museum of Art


It begins in gold, this pointing

upward of leaves. How the branches

rise, propose an unseen union.

Note the olive tree, the hidden

live in its name, the way it arrives,

mouthed, silent, as I love.

Wonder about the couple, left unpainted,

how we imagined ourselves

then, stippled as a tangle in the grass,

kept from Monet’s canvas. How we held

this vision in our years of absence: the tinge

of me inseparable from the mark of you.

What Monet said of this place: it was impossible

to paint without gemstones, its beautiful madness

a fairy tale of air and light.

Listen to the dazzle of that waiting city,

the way it calls us to believe. How we want

to dismiss the story, drown innocence

in the sea below. After seventeen years, a quarry

of space between us, I return to this landscape.

I open my hand to a fairy tale of air and light—

expect only memory, not the sudden slide

of your fingers, taking mine, or how we paint

ourselves here, again, into the impossible.




Rotary Ode


Remember

the receiver


waiting

in its cradle


where an answer

could remain.


Recall

the rotary


where without

the ring


we could not

know


if the call

even was.


It was easier,

then, to lie


about

our absences.


How we could

pick up


with silence,

blame the line,


invisible

to our name,


called over

and over,


our mouths lost

to response.


How we

could lift it,


check

the dial tone,


a flatline

of sound


confirming

our here.


How if we held

through the beat—


pulse, pulse, pulse—

we could break


into the dead,

busy the signal.


How we answered

with expectation


a prayer of who

might be.


Hello? for all

those times


it wasn’t you.

Or was.


How we

didn’t want


the hang up,

pulling


the cord under

the threshold,


dragging it into

another room,


like a small throb

of desire,


wrapping

the spirals


around our wrists,

binding ourselves


to the other-end

voice, wired.


Or the way we

unplugged


it from

the jack


to stop

the insistence,


how it sat,

watching us,


keeping

its place,


a monument

on top of phone books,


the yellowed exchanges

of possibility.


And the way we

—almost—


effortlessly

left


it behind,

closing the door


on its persuasions,

never imagining


already it was

a parasite,


that we

were the ones


unable to be

left


to our own

devices.





Madness

after Ophelia (“And He Will Not Come Back Again”), Arthur Hughes, Toledo Museum of Art


Known mostly for her madness, consider

that she never was, only that she was broken,

as we all are, by love’s silence. How quick we are

to believe the story—if it is written, it must be.


But how she shows us other truths: her shoulder

bares itself, as if to invite our kiss, and her one eye,

slightly larger than the other, warns us nothing

is what it seems. Even what is not of her,


is her, the errant veil that keeps

us from water, drowning, or the bird, blue,

an elusive happiness whose point beak

emphasizes escape. Still, we are tempted


to condemn her language

of flowers, to say, but look, she has gathered

the blooms of her choosing. Again, we would be wrong:

Shakespeare wrote rosemary, that’s for remembrance—


pray you love, remember. Hughes added forget-me-nots.

Maybe only the rogue poppies were ever hers,

bright lips that suggest not her death, but ours.

So many have committed her, staged


for only one story. But just this once,

she looks back for us, rising as reminder

we too can turn from what was told,

the white of her dress not a marriage


to the inevitable, but perhaps a baptism

from all we once claimed to know.





On The Menu


The old man by the window

orders company. They bring him


a loud cocktail party; his loneliness

won’t let him send it back. The couple


beside us orders argue, medium rare,

slicing the air with silent treatment.


I want to order love, like I once did,

bubbling in the glass before I settle,


but I ask for the special—endless

desire—and accept the upcharge.


You order another round

of my life, and it will come,


seasoned to perfection, as your

fingers trace my knee under


the table, sign the check

of my body. Well done


has turned to burn. I’m famished.

How I wish for anything


I don’t have to salt, a plate

I don’t have to rinse.



Notes on the poems

The first three poems are all previously unpublished poems from Slide to Unlock.

"Côte d’Azur, Seventeen Years Later" won the 2015 Ekphrastic Poetry Contest at the Toledo Museum of Art. "On the Menu" was inspired by a Toledo restaurant.


Julie E. Bloemeke's debut poetry collection, Slide to Unlock, was selected by the Georgia Center for the Book as one of only two poetry books on the list for “Book Every Georgian Should Read 2021”. Read the BKR interview here.

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