Martha Kaplan was raised in the Pacific Northwest. She lived in both Houston and Chicago before arriving in Madison, Wisconsin where she has been long enough to be nearly native. She is concerned with language, art, and social justice. She holds degrees in human development as well as in the arts. She’s a retired teacher who has published with Möbius The Poetry Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, Hummingbird, Hospital Drive, Burdock, Ecolocations—Poets’ Map Madison among others. She was the 2011 winner of the Dr. Zelda Mapp Robinson Award, two editor-in-chief awards, and has been nominated for a Pushcart.
Blue. Before I knew it. An absolute so immanent that it goes unnoticed. Of course a sky mottled with clouds. Of course a blue raincoat. A ribbon. Water. A gleam of silver, bluish, in a raindrop watched for hours. White slime of moving slugs over grass. Salt. My eyes. My grandfather’s eyes. Shade in the forest. But air, blue air, always blue. So blue its color seemed to shift its hues, seemed to enter through the windows in the late afternoon, through the daffodil-yellow of the wall to ceiling drapes, warming the mocha walls and the oatmeal loops of the carpeted living room to orange. Sunsets over the mountains to the west, the salt water between us, seemed too, to shift hues with light, with weather. We were not blind to purple or lavender or the cranberry hiding in the center of apple blossoms. Nor in fact, were we blind to the abundance of all the floral hues around us. But the immanent blue, the blue inherent all around us, the blue that clung to everything, we could not see it until we lost it. Until we left it. The blue in the air that passes over half a world of ocean, spills its color into the rivers and on to the mountains, spills onto the Cascades and the high Rockies, and changes hues as it passes onto the plains and prairies. It’s THAT blue, that Western blue, the one I know by absence, that colors.
Voicing the city strange
What sound should I throat you?
A rustling map, rain on the windshield, roar of wind rushing over lake water
until surf sounds on the shore as if ocean lived here.
……….The moon over Monona
……….(the lake) bellows tonight.
Do you hear the music of Jenifer Street?
A blue porch railing, bicycles tethered at the entrance, an un-mullioned window scanning the lake. Wet wheels on pavement or a thousand leaves ripping in liquid air.
Monroe Street is chiming Bach. Wind over Wingra. A flute.
……….At Victor’s the coffee is crying.
……….A white crane flies over my red house.
……….The old oak, limb pointing down, has fallen from the Mound.
Where was wind on Bascom Hill? Look for it at the Chazen.
……….A violin, a mandolin, and a briny lemon
……….sang for a pterosaur in a Permian Sea.
……….They were on their way to Brasserie V.
Can we sing of the Capitol? Not today, my lady.
Well then, where is beauty in this city?
Once on Spaight Street where it intersects with Few, two white-lacquered men sat on a bench, arm over shoulder, ghost men, fleeting, gone to a park in a distant city; a Segal and a gallery that flew away.
……….But the coterie at Brasserie V?
……….What did they order? A dark ale,
……….a Vichyssoise, and two moules frites.
……….What were they reading?
……….Poetry. Books colored like rainbows,
……….available at Avol’s.
Will there be shelter in this city?
Perhaps, in a house on Jenifer Street as winter comes on, as the lake ices, and the wind is a blade that cuts through a thin pair of blue jeans on the legs of a southern girl. Look for the dream of a revolution, curled in the hope of an equal future, where time lives under a skull.
Woodland Pattern is nonprofit book center in the heart of Riverwest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We are dedicated to the discovery, cultivation and presentation of contemporary literature and the arts.