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 muchsky I can see from my window today.
© Ami Mattison
For D'Verse Poets