Friday, September 1, 2017



BLUE by Wesley St. Jo & Reme Grefalda 
(Paloma Press, 2017)

​I’m still baffled by “Eyes of / Blue,” though I’m pretty sure I understand “Hey, Let Me / Marry / You.” And the beauty of this poem is that it doesn’t matter if you understand.

What does matter is the fun you have attempting to grasp what is clearly nearly in-hand. ​The short sentences and one or two syllable words of the poem, make you swing through to the end with an ease that you, gradually realize, is not completely warranted. There is much more here than meets the eye. It is, you gradually realize, a divine jigsaw mystery. That is, if you have a jig saw puzzle for a third grader, the pieces are big and appear to be simply fitted into the picture that will be formed once all 15 or 20  pieces are fitted together.  On the other hand, if you have a jig saw puzzle for an adult it will be 1,000 pieces or even 5,000 and, so, much more difficult than that of the third grader's puzzle. That's how BLUE "looks."  It looks easy. Easy words, very short sentences, lots of white space on the paper. But, watch out: It's not that easy. In fact, it requires a second and third reading before you realize what you're reading about is profound, like the stanza: "I would not Take Death / with a grain of salt, nor Dying with / a touch of reason."  All the words, except Dying and reason, are one syllable words, and not one line is longer than five words. But look at the content and the wry humor, laughing at the intellect. 

​The unfaltering playfulness of the two voices, bubbles up to surface and then almost immediately disappears into a depth that could be serious, depending on how you look at it. The poets are, in a way, identical twins and I don’t believe there is a way for the reader to distinguish one voice from the other. I did try, and every time I thought I had it right, I could see I was wrong. The poem raises lots of questions and, at the same time, offers you an undercurrent of certainty. It rushes and tumbles forward and yet exhibits no real fear of losing its way.  

​“Lose you to a song? Absurd,” the poet says and, at this point in the journey, it feels as though the song would have to be the blues (referred to throughout the poem with a different nuance to it every time). The blues does almost always come with love, and it’s love that increases the poem, not the joining of the two separate poets, but the expression of the same love that they have both felt and understand and rediscover within themselves together. The poem grows, not by adding one to one, but by seeking and, maybe, by fully finding. Two streams rushing to the river and then the ocean.

​This is a sure love, but one that required the poet to rearrange her world for. Though the love has been sure, we feel the halt, the pooling, the continuing search for an opening, and then the surge forward. It was caused by the first stirrings and the first falterings:  “I stood two feet tall: / walked the streets of life / empty handed––save for a pocketful of faith” that sometimes seemed a fairy tale or an old wives tale, but then “some yesterday tune sails in” replacing the “warning” for her to curb her flight lest she “rise in splinters / after the fall.” She hears the tune faintly, and it seems to almost vanish, leaving her with an echoing laughter “as brittle as forgotten twigs.”

​What will happen? Yeah, you can guess, but getting the answer right won’t be nearly as much fun as taking the journey to the end. . .a few times. And if you have a really good idea as to why the Love has “Eyes of Blue,” please let me know.


Carlene Sobrino Bonnivier grew up in downtown Los Angeles in an area now known as Historic Filipinotown. She was a Teacher Corps Volunteer in Salinas, CA, and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malaysia. Bonnivier has authored three novels and a textbook. From 2007 to 2009 she taught Writing at the University of California in Irvine. She has also taught Language Arts and Philosophy in Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Germany, and Japan. Before her career as a teacher and writer, Bonnivier worked as an administrative assistant in the U.S. Congress, on a special project for Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and in the White House Press Office. Filipinotown: Voices from Los Angeles was launched in Historic Filipinotown (where the initial writing workshops were held in 2011). Established authors later joined the effort, and a teachers' guide was added to the 2nd Edition.

No comments:

Post a Comment