Poems and Texts

“Blue is Ubiquitous and Forbidden” by Sable Elyse Smith

There’s a blood still splattered above my brow, a moistness, like the rose-water cross of communion, uneasily spilling down into my eyes. And they’re open to everything.

Open to the beatings I incited as a child. There’s a Rockwell painting that my family was never like, will never be like. No blinding white peppering our pictures: white people, white table cloth, white plates, white napkins, white window, white house, no turkey, no quintessential American, no redhead uncle repetitively bestowing 50 cents on you turning his gaze upon the viewer. We have no kitsch.

In the spirit that draped a bearable beauty on Detroit, like the white-gray grit of city snow—that cold that settles in the bones, or one’s decision to lie down on the pavement for the first time, there is a knowing between our bodies. I know. I’ve been in the place that they say doesn’t wash off; doesn’t shed; doesn’t burn off. We’ve tried to burn it. Tried to snort it. Tried a lot of things for the place. As has the world, draped its shit on me. And it’s a coin toss, I guess: life –shit—life—beautiful shit—life—shit.

My uncle Ed worked for GM, as some middle echelon blank, navy suited. Provided his Schlitz drinking wife plus family a middle echelon house in a suburb, the “made it” Mecca. There in their suburb, twenty-five minutes from our bullet grazed neighborhood—grassless—my father punched my mother’s face 16 times. Her hair caught static thrown against the carpet, little fireworks played in long strands of hair. Little lights caught my attention outside, pane glass window, sliding door, this wasn’t new.

16 holes penetrated the man, Mr. Kim tall as an eight year old girl, who owned China Delight on the corner where grass was sometimes prevalent on our street. A 9mm glock, 17 round magazine, one bullet left to put through the brain, but wasn’t. He died.
Behind the restaurant, four houses up from ours sat a junk yard with four caged Rottweilers. Dusty tires—nails sprouting from their worn tread—leaned up against the fence and so many places where the fence had been cut, left open. I forced my arms through the gashes often. Fondled inside their open wounds. Saw myself on the other side then left with scratches.

The restaurant was big as a large living room, and everything red and as festive as some Chinese New Year exploding on cue. And the menus all say I’m the year of the tiger. There was a red and gold leaf wall paper covering three of the four walls. The gold leaf was thread thin. The other wall: green or white or worn. Red silk table cloths draped over seven dine-in tables. We went there twice a week. And on a next week, any next one, I can’t be sure the exact week, it was simply take-out only—as if it had always been. Most everything walled up now. And no one acted as if it had ever been any other way. None of us. No open space and wandering waitresses. No aquarium bothering my mother’s sense of cleanliness. A small brown film just along the bottom, making the blue rubber bands bright clamping down on lobster claws. It was hardly noticeable to anyone who didn’t care to glance. Glancing is a thing commonly not done in Detroit. She refused to eat seafood there.

“Blue is Ubiquitous and Forbidden” will be published in the upcoming issue of Selfish Magazine.

Photo: Scott Rudd

Sable Elyse Smith

Sable Elyse Smith is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and educator based in New York. Her practice considers memory and trauma while enacting an undoing of language. She works from the archive of her own body creating a new syntax for knowing and not knowing, thereby marking the difference between witnessing and watching. To see is unbearable. She has performed at the New Museum, Eyebeam, Queens Museum, NY; and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA. She is currently a selected participant in the New Museums Seminars: (Temporary) Collection of Ideas, on the thematic PERSONA. Her work has been published in Radical Teacher, Studio Magazine and No Tofu Magazine and she is currently working on her first book. Smith has received grants & fellowships from Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Franklin Furnace Fund, and Art Matters. She is currently part-time faculty at Parsons The New School for Design.

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