Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blue in Detroit

Blue is patches of sky, hovering over
Detroit at the cusp of fall, hung by God
for a people hungry for wider living
and open spaces, not this crumbling
concrete and burnt out houses across the street
from the elementary school playground.

That blue will become a polluted orange-pink,
a strange beauty that’ll make your eyes water
and fill you with longing for familiarity,
not this city of strangers who never loved me.

I’m not seeking pity.

I’m telling you how blue sinks into my belly—
Coltrane’s blue, starting slow as train wheels,
chugging along until it drives full steam, taking me
back in my mind home to Alabama, to a girlhood
that no longer exists except in melodies and riffs.

Blue is a pretty word people use when they don’t know
how it feels to spend another insomniac night
staring at a knife, just in case you can’t
wake to another grey day of dying.

When I tell them I can’t take another twenty-four hours,
they prescribe more pills and raise the dose.

It’s no coincidence that the pills are blue
and pink and yellow and white, the colors of sweet candy,
but tasting metallic like a razor blade or blood.

Every morning, I hold those pills in the palm of my hand
and consider the irony: how insane my sanity is
tiny and crushable and housed in small
plastic bottles I throw away every month.

Cheer up, they tell me, which is just another way
to say: You’re not trying hard enough.

But they’ve never carefully split
the skin alongside a blue vein,
barely missing the pulse.

That scar marks my wrist, reminds me
I’m still alive and I have a choice
that can’t be distilled to cliché.

One day at a time? I’m taking it word by word,
writing this poem while looking out
my window at a patch of blue sky in Detroit.

I’ve been trying for two decades to determine
the difference between living and dying,
and most days there is none.

When they ask—
Are you going to hurt yourself?
I can honestly say I never know if I’m lying
or not when I tell them—

But blue is just another word I’m writing
to survive another few seconds, while waiting
for that polluted sunset and then that grey dawn,
reminding me how the difference between
living and dying comes in shades of blue
and the exact measure of how much
sky I can see from my window today.

© Ami Mattison

For D'Verse Poets


  1. oh i so can feel this..
    I’m telling you how blue sinks into my belly—
    Coltrane’s blue, starting slow as train the honest voice in this ami, this is a raw write without make up and a double floor - thanks so much for the excellent article at dVerse - really appreciate that you're sharing your knowledge with us

  2. Thank you Ami. I learned something today over at Dverse.
    This poem is so real. It describes the desperation of depression so well, one is definitely closer to understanding.

  3. Thanks so much for your insight into Spoken Word, your article was a great read, as is your poem, here. I wonder how much the performance scene differs across The Pond?

  4. Your words are strong, intense. They feel personal and deep and relative. This is what I tried to do when I responded to your prompt. I appreciate the openness in this poem. A brave work.

  5. "how insane my sanity is
    tiny and crushable and housed in small
    plastic bottles I throw away every month" -

    or that 3 minutes without air is a gulp away
    to go away

    powerful work, as it should be, the trivial is so important, like tiny molecules of atmosphere called oxygen

    because how can one tell the difference 'tween trivial and important? -

    "I’ve been trying for two decades to determine
    the difference between living and dying,
    and most days there is none...."

    beautifully said ami, thank you ;-)

  6. Sometimes it is so difficult to hold onto and yet, the alternative is also so final and we don't know if we end it that way if we will silence the endless noise we long to silence. I could almost feel how sharp the blade was.
    This is so real, and writing is another way of 'saving' ourselves. Fabulous imagery.

  7. damn Ami, the vulnerability in this piece is staggering ... beautifully honest lines, I love this.

  8. Great poem Ami! :) A pleasure reading it n getting to know you!

  9. Oh goodness this piece has guts of its own. Thanks for the lesson over at Dverse and right here on this page for that matter. I've been reading live for the last couple months and I must say it's addicting. When you connect with the audience and they "feel" your words its kinda magical. Nice to meet you!

  10. Gosh, this really hits... like how blue sinks into your belly... you're descriptions are so vivid, I really feel this... thanks for the honesty and for a wonderful prompt today!

  11. Superb writing such a good idea to link the effect of colours to that of pills. Vivid, beautiful and thought-provoking.

  12. powerful is def a the layering of blue as it sets an internal mood....and wrote mine along a similar lines but different...based on last night....

    there is a great authenticity to this...the not knowing if you are lying....great stuff ma'am and thanks for tending pub

  13. Hi Ami, and welcome to dversepoets. I hope you visit really often. I loved your prompt for today and the poem that you provided here. Getting back to the real voice that lives inside us is needed now more than ever, since there are so many ways to fake out, get faked out, find yourself lost without a voice. The poem is real in that sense and even more real in drawing us out to think about imaginitively the lives we create for ourselves. It seems we always need to keep coming back to possibilities and how poetry is about possibilities, perhaps above all else. Poems that pull us out of the everyday routine, while placed within the everyday are the most powerful. And I think this poem is superb in achieving that. Welcome and thank you!

  14. Wow. This is so... thank you. Thank you for putting into words what so many of us can't say (isolation is my knife) and for putting in a way so beautifully poignant and potent. Sheesh! A master class in poetry doubling as a formal introduction to depression in the form of spoken word! Well done. well done. Wow.

  15. I feel the depression and the resignation of this life...and a knowing that the help offered is sometimes so shallow...because those around you don't want to believe it's that bad. I like this because I can feel it so strongly.

    And thank you for the introduction to spoken word poetry at dVerse.

  16. Wow. You taught me a great deal at dVerse. And this? This is a marvel. An extended riff on "blue" that hits every note pure, and i feel the pain, yes, and the slice (sorry) of hope at the end, fleeting and wistful as it is. You brought everything to this. It teaches, too. Thank you so very much.

  17. I stumbled upon your blog by googling about "sucky poems"....anyway, it appeared as if you hadn't written in a while, not here at least, so I just kept checking back. I'm glad to see you're writing again, here. Good stuff.

  18. A wonderful poem on the page (screen). I think its drama, and the way it adresses 'you', would be pluses in performance.