Three poems by Julie Bloemeke

You’re Breaking Up

The last time I saw you
we were almost naked
and breaking up though
could we have known either, then?

Only the phone with its curls
and nonface would give us enough
courage to say to a mouthpiece: it’s over.
And even then you would hold

the line, say Wait. Please. And I could hear
you getting high, wanting to ease out
and hang on. And how I would keep

us too, talking us back
into that room where again,
I had been trying on you
to get over him. That blue
room with its corduroy walls,

where we were slipping and playing
Todd Rundgren and you were whispering—
maybe begging—think of me—as your hand
made its way down my hips to my thighs

and how, for just this once, I would lie
back for you, even when you knew
I would never let you in. And how we shared

beer from a dark bottle, and how later
I took you close enough that you began
to sing, even after Todd had long given up:
seeing you, seeing you.

And after, how we faced the ceiling,
hanging the possibility of sex
like paper stars, glittering
and just out of reach.

And how neither of us ever hung up,
falling asleep over the wires, waking
in the morning, the receiver somehow still
and dead on the pillow next to each of us.

Foreign Exchange

He led me up the stairs,
my unsure hand in his,
Z, from Peru, who seemed
overwhelmed by all of it: my drunk
older brother, our English, this forbidden
high school Christmas party.

I was thirteen, on my second Fuzzy Navel,
sweet peach and orange swirled
in a plastic cup. I sat on the edge
of the bed, feigned sophistication,
pretended in my staggering Spanish:
Guapo. Beso. Muy bueno.

He sat down beside me, held
my hand, asked me, broken,
Rubia, I think your heart
is oro, like this? touching
my blonde hair just barely.

I wanted anything to happen
in his accent, his jagged unknown
words, the soft way he looked at me
so unlike American boys. I leaned
closer and he stood, searching
the bookshelf. I asked him how to say
orange and peach and drunk, laughing.

He found a book, opened it, pointed
to Peru, his mountains, the blurs
of green and ruins, guiding my hands
over this landscape, his home.
As he talked, I felt my head spin,
his hand on my back to steady me.

He set down my cup, showing me coffee trees,
Corpus Christi costumes, the totora boats
drying upward to the sky, the salt collectors
in the Sacred Valley, sand. I felt the clock
of the room wind tight against me, remembered
how to say Tengo fiebre, no,

¿Tengo hambre?, no, ¿Tengo enferma?
Estas enferma? He asked so close
and sensing, lifted me from
the bed, got me to the bathroom,
rubbed my back, held my hair.

The word for peach: melocotón.
The word for orange: naranja.
The word for drunk idiot: You
must not call yourself that.

How I leaned against him, the truth:

Everything has happen and nothing
has happen, mi rubia.

And that too, was something.
Perhaps it was everything.

Passing Hugo Boss

And then there was the longing,
the sudden negative space, silent
as yearn, as filament wrapped
through me, and I pass a shirt,
a department store display, folded
perfectly, some fingers edging seams
over cardboard, laying it out crisp,
at angle, the white poplin, the small
blue stripes, his exact color of blue.
I know the designer before I see the name.

I know, in that sudden rush of charge
it is the shirt, the one he bought weeks ago,
in his transformation. I know
it irrevocably, my body speaking to me
in its thunder. Feel it now, how I am

walking past, in regular, expected space,
how in one glance they line up within me,
these pins, spines, rachis of feathers,
vibrating, oscillating, villi moving
with the charge of every bolt, and in the singe
from my brain to the fired marble behind
my pubic bone, the whole forest blazes,
contained under my skin.

I want to stop, to touch the shirt, but I never lose
my stride, or the fruit that breaks within me,
the splitting from seed, this pain swirled
into the color of pleasure, this ache that wraps down
into fist, protection, but also wide
in inflorescence, every last raging gem
shattering outward. Oh God, my God, it is why

we say it, because there is no way
to tell this, what do we call it: longing,
missing, yearning, there is no way for bodies
to take this noise and sharpness, implosion
and reckless breaking and bring it to word
or image. How did I know it was the shirt,
you will ask. Do you even need confirmation?

It was because my body knew it,
just as the feeling spiked in me every
time the moment before I ran into him, every hair
standing on toes, knowing the strike of lightning,
imminent. There was no swerving or stopping,
no hands held up in protection, only the swift
shot of voltage, the tingling heat left
in the bowl of my body, and me, still walking,

stepping forward, no one around me knowing
that I’d been touched, zapped, my body carrying
the joules of wavelength, this parallel, him wearing
this very poplin right now, on his first night out
since the divorce. And he is looking into the bottom

of his wine glass and he thinks, maybe, he sees
my face looking back from the surface,
and without conscious awareness, he reaches up,
touches the mole on his neck, the small circle
of darkness that I would kiss, saying:
this is my mark, my space on your body,

and this is where I will be no matter how he travels,
no matter what storm opens above, what fierce light
grabs us from the sky, fuses us, glass under the sand,
this fulgurite spreading, hidden under the beach for miles.

Julie Bloemeke is a native of Toledo, Ohio. Her first full-length poetry collection is Slide to Unlock (Sibling Rivalry Press 2020). She received her M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars, and an M.A. from the University of South Carolina, where she was chosen as a Ramsaur Fellow and studied with James Dickey. Currently in Atlanta, Georgia, she has served as a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and has also been in residency at the Bowers House Literary Center. Her poems have been widely anthologized and appeared in numerous literary journals, including Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Chautauqua Literary Journal, Palooka Magazine, South Dakota Review, and Bridge Eight Literary Magazine. Her ekphrastic work has been published and showcased in collaborations with the Toledo Museum of Art and Phoenix Museum of Art. A freelance writer, editor, and guest lecturer, her interviews have recently appeared in AWP’s Writer’s Chronicle and Poetry International. Slide to Unlock was a finalist and semi-finalist for multiple book prizes, including the May Swenson Poetry Prize in 2016.

Image: “Bend” by Destinee Dearbeck

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