Valerie Arvidson

Fragmentary Blue

Sometimes the sun and the moon compose the same hour: the blue hour. Rising and falling, anchor, ship, and satellite become passing glances. A white Ferris wheel sinks slowly into the Atlantic.

Face to face across the water’s arc, the celestial siblings float upon a latitude of lightness and sand.

It’s an icy midsummer, and the brothers-in-law groom each other with spit and whiskey. Waves of goose bumps rise on their necks. They pull off hangnails and comb their eyebrows, like cats.

In this fragmentary blue two young men look in the same mirror at each other and into the lens with love. Inside the paper house, a man with a camera is paid in nickels. His darkroom smells of silver. He’s a serious man— so they won’t smile. No one who receives this postcard wants to see the inside of a boy’s mouth.

Sometimes two men hold each other up arm in arm, or by the hand—broad summer hands, more like mitts or paws, swollen pink with alcohol and sun. Their hands pull and push or grab or form fists. Their hands that bleed into rivulets, merging with sweat, dirt, and the blood of the other brother. Sometimes they hold their hands up palm to palm, to create static power, so high pitched only they can hear it. Falling up the stairs together, arm in arm, they are an army of pleasure.

Together they can do things like talk to girls. A wall of muscle and teeth, they can make those girls laugh. The boys point with their bodies, breasts filled with warm air. They buoy down the boardwalk. They sparkle. One is the eye and the other is the hand. One is the mouth and the other is the mind. They follow white skirts and search for ankles, soft shoes and unraveled ladies’ laces.

Adolescent kings, wearing invisible crowns of chemicals, they grow each day, trees of flesh, fibrous pith and ligament. Heartwood expands into sapwood. Marrow to more marrow and skin to more skin. Ending in a matching cigar in each cold mouth. Ashes to ashes, they burn a hole right through you. The white-gloved girl doesn't want to come near. She doesn't want to come home smelling like the boys from the boardwalk.

Sometimes two trees, once broken, grow up together from one root inside a rock. They forever fixed in awkward embrace, but twisting slowly towards the night sun. They move through the air, shedding their bark to come closer to the top of the canopy. They form a strange flower with a tongue that blooms, under one thousand suns that circle, never blinking.

They laugh and laugh and speak in a broken tongue that they took from the sea. They sit for the last photograph. Their lips are just lines, hiding children’s teeth. Their ears are little curled horns. Quickly they clear their thoughts and stare at the stars, just seashells dangling on a string.

The flash puts everyone to sleep. All becomes blue, becomes chrome, becomes black. In their sleep, they can finally breathe under water. The boys can finally rest on the dark side. Shapes emerge in the water. They let the shapes push them around.

The carnival night is closing. Lights flicker, flash and shut down. Carousel horses turn moonblind.

In the purple sky of dawn, open-eye looks at the closed eye. The boys half sleep under the storefront of Vega’s bakery. Half moon eye appears and waits.

A silver coin is placed on the crescent eye to cool the blue bruise of morning. The brothers-in-law in love are painted in cardboard, painted in pale good spirits. When they wake, they will pick up their black and white selves made of milk and paper. They will gaze into their own faces, into their own eyes.

Now, great grandfather’s eye becomes my gazing point. My eye is the third-eye, the luminous chronometer counting colors, collecting minutes, as they seem to rise up out of the sea foam and form the new day.



1 This is also the title of a poem by Robert Frost, published in 1920.
2 From a photo-postcard. Arthur Johnson and Algot Kållström, brothers-in-law, c. 1911, Boston, MA.
Source: author’s family archives.

Valerie Marie Arvidson is a writer, artist, and teacher. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Washington. Her piece "Here, There", originally published with Anomalous Press, was selected for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net 2013. Her writing has also appeared in Hunger Mountain (winner of the 2009 creative non-fiction contest), Apt (Aforementioned Productions), The Seattle Review, and Blunderbuss magazine. She is working on a book of hybrid-prose featuring images, stories, and archives from her Scandinavian ancestors.