The memory is as dark as the night sky that crooks her bedroom windowpane, caught
between moonlight and the reflection of snow outside.
The memory is a blue marble. A secret. Hot as the small fist that grips it.
It is rolling slowly along the living room floor, edging beneath the wrought-iron rail
at the top of the stairs.
The stairs lead to the basement where the father is working, bent scowling over his light box
and drafting table. Or perched on the brown kneeling chair before a canvas.
On the canvas is a naked woman sculpted of blue letters, letters curving tendon and muscles.
Thighs built of letters, swooping calligraphic strokes. Tits of letters. Cerulean. Cobalt.
Child at the top of the stairs when she is not supposed to be, watching.
The father applies more blue paint.
The memory is a hardwood floor.
The memory is a basement that stinks of turpentine.
The blue letter woman on the canvas came to the father in a dream. Her body arcs like the billowing sails of a mythic ship.
The woman is not the child’s mother.
The father says, Don’t tell your mother.
The child doesn’t need to be told.
The memory is a marble held in her mouth. The smooth, hypnotic round and round
of her tongue on glass.
The child swallows the marble.
Or she drops it.
Sudden clatter against wood. Marble rolling then striking, one stair rung and then the next.
Sound after sound after sound.
The father looks up.
The marble stays missing for months, years.
Eventually the child forgets about the marble.
Or she remembers it, but in a way that is built of story and dream, of the dark reach
at the bottom of a pond.
And then one day she finds it again.
She finds it in the dark part of the basement, by the furnace. Or behind the old unused
potbelly stove. By the cast-iron owls with their eyes of staring yellow glass.
It’s that familiar blue, but she doesn’t trust it.
There, in the corner. Near the door to the bomb shelter.
Yes, there is actually a bomb shelter in this basement.
No, that is not a joke, though it sounds like one.
Look, the point of this story is that the child can recognize the blue of that marble anywhere.
It opens something unnamable inside of her.
That endless shade, like the length of an entire night coiled and compressed, pushed harder and harder into itself until it is a jewel she can hold in her hand.
Lock tight in her box of secrets and treasures. With stones from the river. An old penny. A pinecone. A tiny vial of honeysuckle perfume. The seashells and buttons and beads.
This marble she once could fall into, hoping it might carry her somewhere else. A current. A wave.
Later there will be a pale blue blouse. A dark blue skirt. A faint memory of the red couch. Of chambray against cheek. There will be a photograph that makes her queasy. A fear of ink-stained hands and bitten hangnails. Touch blue as electricity.
The metallic taste of shame like a blue marble in her throat.
She finds the marble. She loses the marble. She finds the marble. She loses the marble.
She finds it and loses it so many times she’s no longer sure if that first blue marble ever existed at all.
Thank you for writing this. Color has always been an important story teller, in my view. What associations we have, what sound color brings, all raw material we can meet in the writing to suss out the juicy parts. The hidden parts. And the ways in which one seemingly small thing can yield something gargantuan. Thank you again.
I so enjoyed reading this. It is very interesting, full of wonder and threat, secrets and loss, all at the same time. The movement of the language, the color blue, the speed of it all. The shatter. How this event moves through and shapes a lifetime.
You might want to start the poem at the line, “The Memory is a blue marble…”, Take a look at the use of “or” I think this may be used to many times. A question of sharpening the focus.
The painting of the woman made of letters.
Very effective use of sense imprints to situate the memory and its meaning. Thank you.
I admire the craft involved in this piece – the past, present and future of this memory, it’s imprint of secrecy. So much I can learn from this, thank you!
Love this. I agree with Karen that it might start with “The memory is a blue marble.” It’s dreamy and ambiguous. Is the painting really a painting, or a lover, or a painting of a lover, or something entirely else. I felt like I was in the basement and could smell it. Really lovely sensory writing. Nice work.
Hi Julia! ‘crooks her bedroom windowpane’ LOVE! ‘The memory is a blue marble. A secret. Hot as the small fist that grips it.” Deeply LOVE that this small marble fisted is holding it ALL!”Look, the point of this story is that the child can recognize the blue of that marble anywhere. It opens something unnamable inside her.””She finds the marble. She loses the marble. She finds the marble. She loses the marble.” DAMN! This is powerful and the metaphor of the marble that holds the secret that the child might have swallowed, but then it is found everywhere even on the color of her clothes. This is BRILLIANT and so LAYERED with the MYSTERY that any reader will find themselves in! MAJESTIC! I LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!
I love this piece, Julia, especially the blue marble as metaphor and all the other wonderful details. Beautiful work!
This was haunting and lyrical, as well as an experience we can probably all relate to, even if in this case it’s specific to you. And the cadence and form you apply here are exquisite and power the piece to its dramatic conclusion.
Hi Julia, this is hypnotic and revelatory in its poetic prose and repetition. I love how the significance of a small object like a marble can take on multiple meanings via metaphor and simile. And so much invention here. What a terrific first draft!