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.
in its cradle
where an answer
we could not
if the call
It was easier,
then, to lie
How we could
blame the line,
to our name,
our mouths lost
could lift it,
the dial tone,
How if we held
through the beat—
pulse, pulse, pulse—
we could break
into the dead,
busy the signal.
How we answered
a prayer of who
Hello? for all
it wasn’t you.
the hang up,
the cord under
dragging it into
like a small throb
around our wrists,
to the other-end
Or the way we
how it sat,
on top of phone books,
the yellowed exchanges
And the way we
closing the door
on its persuasions,
already it was
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.