Monday’s Verse, Feb. 15, 2010

Welcome to Monday’s Verse’s annual Valentine’s Day edition, when we celebrate the work of Diane Wakoski, b. 8/3/37. Ms. Wakoski teaches creative writing at Michigan State; she has published numerous volumes of poetry, and one collection of critical essays. Her early work was considered to be part of the short-lived “deep image” school of American poetry, where image and symbol interact in an often stylized and dramatic way. Resonances within the poem itself tend to produce a “sense” of what the poem is doing, as opposed to meaning that stems from narrative, rhyme, or emotional appeal. That seems to be particularly the case in “Blue Monday,” one of the best poems I’ve ever read, in its skillful use of repetition.

Critics have written of Ms. Wakoski’s use of archetype, fantastic images, personae, and a deeply personal mythology, and I think those elements are here, too. Nebulous terrors take the form of sharks swimming in an unlikely place. Love is a banker. Dreamy images of blue trains and blue herons conjure mystery, even as they are among the most sensible of her images. More importantly, here’s what MV readers have had to say about the poem:

“well this makes me want to throw myself into oncoming traffic on valentine’s day…this one is deep.”

“mrs. wakoski rolls repetition down the page in a way that pulls you down with it.  this is nicer left on paper, i think.  it would depend who was reading it for me to so willingly trail after their voice as i do her lines.  i was always taught not to follow strangers, especially ones bearing candy or poetry.  shady folks, so i’m told.”

“Absolutely beautiful. I especially like:

blue of her teeth
that bite cold toast
and shatter on the streets

“That is depressing. This is the first time I’ve read this one. Does the poem change point of view after the first block, or is the narrator talking about different people?”

“I love this poem! The imagery is so poignant. Depressing? I guess so but so true of Mondays when one is fixated on finding love. When we want love it does seem cold and distant–alienating.”

Without further ado, happy Monday. -ed.

BLUE MONDAY

Blue and the heaps of beads poured into her breasts
and clacking together in her elbows;
blue of the silk
that covers lily-town at night;
blue of her teeth
that bite cold toast
and shatter on the streets;
blue of the dyed flower petals with gold stamens
hanging like tongues
over the fence of her dress
at the opera/opals clasped under her lips
and the moon breaking over her head a
gush of blood-red lizards.

Blue Monday. Monday at 3:00 and
Monday at 5. Monday at 7:30 and
Monday at 10:00. Monday passed under the rippling
California fountain. Monday alone
a shark in the cold blue waters.

You are dead: wound round like a paisley shawl.
I cannot shake you out of the sheets. Your name
is still wedged in every corner of the sofa.

Monday is the first of the week,
and I think of you all week.
I beg Monday not to come
so that I will not think of you
all week.

You paint my body blue. On the balcony
in the soft muddy night, you paint me
with bat wings and the crystal
the crystal
the crystal
the crystal in your arm cuts away
the night, folds back ebony whale skin
and my face, the blue of new rifles,
and my neck, the blue of Egypt,
and my breasts, the blue of sand,
and my arms, bass-blue,
and my stomach, arsenic;

there is electricity dripping from me like cream;
there is love dripping from me I cannot use–like acacia or
jacaranda–fallen blue and gold flowers, crushed into the street.

Love passed me in a business suit
and fedora.
His glass cane, hollow and filled with
sharks and whales. . .
He wore black
patent leather shoes
and had a mustache. His hair was so black
it was almost blue.

“Love,” I said.
“I beg your pardon,” he said.
“Mr. Love,” I said.
“I beg your pardon,” he said.

So I saw there was no use bothering him on the street.

Love passed me on the street in a blue
business suit. He was a banker
I could tell.

So blue trains rush by in my sleep.
Blue herons fly overhead.
Blue paints cracks in my
arteries and sends titanium
floating into my bones.
Blue liquid pours down
my poisoned throat and blue veins
rip open my breast. Blue daggers tip
and are juggled on my palms.
Blue death lives in my fingernails.

If I could sing one last song
with water bubbling through my lips
I would sing with my throat torn open,
the blue jugular spouting that black shadow pulse,
and on my lips
I would balance volcanic rock
emptied out of my veins. At last
my children strained out
of my body. At last my blood
solidified and tumbling into the ocean.
It is blue.
It is blue.
It is blue.

-1968

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