Ed Pavlic

Isatine Blues

“Why? It don’t matter why.”
—Billie Holiday, “Deep Song”

Don’t sing it
to me. Or I’ll stay under
here motionless
& blue gilled. I’ll drift
away from the shattered place
of irruption.
Where the summer song
crossed the winter street,
the corner
where we met. & don’t
worry about me,
I’ll stick close
to pockets of air beneath
the surface. Snatch shallow
breaths of marrow
from bends in the death-blue
shoulder blade of the ice patch.
Go on & sing it,
just not to me. Last night,
for a moment at rest
on the keys,
I saw my finger tips melt
chord prints into your frozen
back. & Gershwin’s
limo didn’t come around
to keep us honest. As you
hummed changes
thru the tune the pockets
of touch filled with water.
& scarred
by warmth, they freeze again
into glassy bullet wounds
like transparent
braille domes. My fingers
slip off rounded keys;
I lose hold of you.
Another song’s gone
off with the pale
figoric voice, alight
with the lilt of Southern
Am I playing a player-
piano? Behind the stool,
a white veil wafts
as a bowl of tangerine
peels dries on a hissing radiator.
Ancestress to burnt
lips on a scarlet trumpet,
you turn body heat into liquid
distance & back
to ice beneath my hands.
Almost round, a charcoal sketch
of a circle, we
dance underneath the ice,
impaled by bolts of broken
& swayed in the tidal pull
of silence. Sing to me now,
rallentando down
to the sine qua non. Sing
to me again and all last night.
& don’t pause
at my fall away thru
scented pillows & cloudless
depths of the
sheets. Confess it
this once, the uncanny
The whetstone in your pocket
& the unsheathed epée
waved in your
voice. I stayed alert,
but my whole body fell
asleep. Round
about midnight & crescendo
needles hold my limbs.
Sing my forehead
back thru the eye
of the needle or a
of the mirror. Been under
five minutes now, lungs ache
& clutch, ears
drum a pressure rhythm
to the echo-depth of time.
If you’re down,
stay down. & sing me back
thru last night before I went
& ear-numb, before I melted
at the edge of your lips
& slipped beneath
the sand. & don’t stop. Quiver-
still, how the hands of a mesmerist
work the future
out of fruit fallen from the Litchi
tree. When you hum
into Mera’s “Higanbana,”
a blue tree at the river bank burns
orange, blown
in a red wind. Our storm tongues
twist Madame Butterfly
onto her mythic
back & summon a thunder-reaper
with a Cutthroat on his
shoulder. A mirror
image or a sure sign, a raven
wears a ruby necklace,
Amadina fasciata.
Splayed open down to our beating
pit, two well ripened sinners
washed up
onto broken glass & black coral
of the soul’s beach. I’m hanging
on one muted line,
to touch the indigo heave
of nightfall to the windward
surf of cachexy.
If tone is homage to the pressure
of secrets, sing to the numb
spot, the nob
of bone growing behind my ear.
Sing the warm spot that moves
along my hip.

Ed Pavlic
“Isatine Blues” is from Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue (Copper Canyon Press, 2001).