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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:



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


the receiver


in its cradle

where an answer

could remain.


the rotary

where without

the ring

we could not


if the call

even was.

It was easier,

then, to lie


our absences.

How we could

pick up

with silence,

blame the line,


to our name,

called over

and over,

our mouths lost

to response.

How we

could lift it,


the dial tone,

a flatline

of sound


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,


the cord under

the threshold,

dragging it into

another room,

like a small throb

of desire,


the spirals

around our wrists,

binding ourselves

to the other-end

voice, wired.

Or the way we


it from

the jack

to stop

the insistence,

how it sat,

watching us,


its place,

a monument

on top of phone books,

the yellowed exchanges

of possibility.

And the way we




it behind,

closing the door

on its persuasions,

never imagining

already it was

a parasite,

that we

were the ones

unable to be


to our own



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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