Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Only Blue Body by Rosalynde Vas Dias

I'm not sure how to talk about this mysterious and beautiful book without sounding like a blurb, because it's one of those books that, like Jean Valentine's work, I love but couldn't explicate even if you had a gun to my head. The thing is, you should just read it. Read with your mind open to transformations--human to animal and animal to animal--and to yearning. Read in readiness to be transported to worlds part dream, part fantasy, part this very strange "real" one. Expect the secrets curled up inside you to be fleshed out in ways you never expected.

Read this poem, my favorite from the book (though "Origin" was a close 2nd) with an amazing ending, and then read my students' centos, poems created using lines from Only Blue Body, in the comments to this post. Also get to know a bit of the quirky, funny, amazing mind of Rosalynde Vas Dias by "liking" her Facebook page.

Only Sweetness

Though I play the white noise
tape of the zebra finches
circling the aviary
often enough, I never dream
of flying, David.

I wonder how
they miked all 27
of those little birds--
catching each wing
beat and braiding

the beats into this sound
of heavy breathing over
a drum circle, but on finch
scale (think 4 oz. each). I did
once sort of hand feed this

oriole of some kind--
they like oranges and I
knew that. Have you ever held
a halved orange out
to a black and orange creature

waiting for him to understand
you mean no harm, you offer
only sweetness? And sometimes
you think that's no oriole,
it's some kind of dog or even

a rail rider too weak to hop
a train out of here and after
you are not too sure what
to believe, he hops or crawls
or drags himself to you, your

hand, the orange-half offering
and plunges his beak into
the fruit, gulping the flesh
into his own flesh, taking
greedy mouthfuls in a way

we associate with desperation,
but this oriole, this creature
is neither desperate nor grateful.
So you wait, almost blank, gazing
at the lay of feathers against

his skull, the pips stuck to his beak.
You step up into the white noise.
He'll fly, you think, if he finishes
the orange. Only half an orange
really. But he never does, just stabs

or sips or laps and you keep holding
it out, your offering, feeling the percussive
strikes of the beak through the peel.
What could I do then, David,
once I saw so clearly there was nothing
else I wanted to do instead?


  1. Transformation Explained – Cento Compiled from Rosalynde Vas Dias’ “Only Blue Body”

    You’d never survive out there
    with no visible alteration.

    Walking through the black trees
    holding a spoonful of gold
    you mean no harm,
    you offer only sweetness.

    Yourself, very small,
    hands folded, eyes far-off looking

    idly gazing out at the crisp
    skeletons of living or once-
    living material.
    You understood by seeing.

    Some died. Then many.
    The Shadow recalling the Source.

    Imagine holding a beautiful object
    and see the needles, individual,
    on the evergreens, and marks on the rocks,
    marks that show where they cleaved

    in a panic. Back in the body
    by accident in a panic.

  2. Gone Sailing Without Me- A Cento Compiled from Rosalynde Vas Dias’ “Only Blue Body”
    Ben Carter

    A book closed upon itself
    in the snow woods.
    Water, freezing, broke the mountain upward.
    Below that, a mile or more, green pastures.
    The cold flags under your feet
    cold glass against your cold fingers
    spool dizzy and loosing substance
    the snow piled up to either side of silver paths of frozen boot prints

    the blue bug light
    was hit by a car

    The beetle’s left elystron snapped off cleanly and fit the tip of my tongue like the husk of a popcorn kernel
    At the puncture itself, no pain:
    juice and veined golden flesh
    The oriole pecking the flesh, keeping one eye fastened to you
    nodding in recognition
    little wren, all anthropomorphic;
    a furnace, orange, pulsing like a living carnelian

    Goodbye, Goodbye, my voice protesting, the voice mute, thinking
    the last wooden cup I made is right now drying on the dish rack

    A spring night, already hot
    at the center of each nucleus, pollen gold

    When I was born, the small spinning everything was gold.
    My eyes are huge—liquid and empty of pupils.
    step up into the white noise
    My disguise is full of holes

    The color of an anchor doesn’t matter
    The ship is gone sailing on without me
    running over water, skidding—there’s an oil skim—purple-green weeps out and it’s down
    a barrier.
    The sheet laid down over wreckage.

  3. Rebellion by Evan Goetz
    (Cento created from poems in Rosalynde Vas Dias’ Only Blue Body)

    The moon tonight is so white,
    holding a spoonful
    of gold he never gave
    to me, the fire small
    in his pupils.
    I’ve always wanted
    dark eyes without light.
    I would die
    for that.

    In that church
    my disguise is full
    of holes.
    Wait ‘til it breaks.

    Drunken noises
    of approval follow.
    Artificial becomes artful.

  4. Longing By Yelena Sanchez

    A Cento After Rosalynde Vas Dias’ Only Blue Body

    In the mirror, I am merely a woman, with breasts, the too-large nose, mouth, eyes. There seemed little choice.

    I used to be captain of my own ship. I stared at it forever. Long ago, he fell into the brown rot of the forest.

    In my dreams, a man asking, Don’t you ever get lonely? Maybe I am.

    Alone and lonely in my attic room, a light on all night will draw him. But standing in the dark, he is a plum.

    His good aroma, his growing softness. His skin barely contains him. Maybe I am a woman in love,

    or maybe I am delirious. Inside, I would die for that, if I touched him, where sun touched

    lines that curved. He was silence, a book closed upon itself. Illusion.

    Can I say it is a memory? We got along because it was fiction. He is mine because I hide him,

    folded like a paper fan largely in my dreams, sad when one is longing.

    *Line breaks were altered by publication, sorry :(

  5. Rán Gone Fishing
    Chlöe Sweetman

    The sky turns soapy, the air bends
    down, inert in that desert
    under the dark water. Silence,
    as if he lived
    within a mirror, temporal
    silver bubbles caught here and there.

    He is so still, dark
    purple, black purple,
    a parcel of flesh, porous
    and also organic. His cracked
    ribs are just visible, his knuckles
    mercury white.

    Gold, his gift of penance.

    At his growing softness
    she lifts him from his place. Soon
    he will split. She holds him
    up to her lips – a face. Human.
    Her blue eyes turn
    blue, the blue that dead
    bones should be.

  6. Don't You Ever Get Lonely? By Donna Walker

    A Cento After Rosalynde Vas Dias’ Only Blue Body

    You used to be
    a small, unbearable itching.
    White and purple as a frozen puddle.

    What is this
    in the photograph?
    Silver paths of frozen boot prints,
    mercury white?

    The light is a kind of phosphorescent milk…
    yourself, very small,
    dreaming of being
    a reflection.

    At night I’d try to feel
    saffron. A gentle hand.
    Goodbye, Goodbye.
    The gold changed, becoming white and distant.

    Can I say it is a memory?
    Is he eating silver? Is he marching?
    Speeding away from the source—
    combing the earth.

    No wonder his silence.
    As if he lived within a mirror,
    his back to me
    for the first time.

  7. Everything Gold
    Coral Nardandrea

    He lay down in a hollow.
    His skin was pale under clothes.
    Is he eating silver?
    Is he gold and white?
    Inside the shade, he is
    not hollow, but swollen,
    holding a spoonful of gold.
    The gold changed, becoming white and distant.
    Don’t you ever get lonely?

    She looked for him there,
    unmade from herself, swoop of inked line.
    His listener nods the slow and long motion,
    though his eyes suddenly seem erased.
    How is it she’s never noticed before?
    Does he feel he is always being born?
    Someone to remember him:
    her face, half intent, human.

    But like her,
    this was a divisionary lie.
    No wonder his silence
    barely contains him.
    It sometimes seems
    she’s just briefly resting, reeled out
    to nap as one reels out laundry.
    You shouldn’t stare at her, not while he’s standing there.
    He lifts her, shoulders straining back,

    wielding a paint brush.
    Artificial becomes artful.
    But that’s not a memory.
    These aren’t that kind.

    A cold morning.
    There was paper stuffed
    in the window frames.
    It takes all afternoon
    to see it clearly--the dark back,
    the blue that dead bones should be.
    The mirror reflects the small spinning,
    everything gold. The part
    that seemed real--
    Is it not visible?
    Gold, throated bodies
    playing airplane.
    They hung from the rafters
    by ribbon.