Blanket Sea

Arts & Literary Magazine

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Poetry by Natalie E. Illum

The perspective from below

Sharks attack their prey from underneath,
sometimes at speeds of up to 35 miles an hour.

At first you think why is there
a freight train underwater? And then
the ocean leaks red and you think
Oh.

The kitchen floor attacks its prey
with gravity. It snaps bone
just as easily as a mouth.
A table corner can be
razor sharp too.

If you hit the soft tissue
at the back of a skull
with 160 pounds of your own
body weight, it will gush too.

You know immediately.
You’ve endangered yourself.
Swam out too far in the middle
of your living room, without
the lifeguard of your cane.

You see red pool
on the linoleum. Oh.
Clutch skin, kick
sideways, crawl
to your cell phone
like a shoreline.

There’s no point in shouting Help!!
before your feet slip and the floor
becomes a thing capable
of drowning you.

The spectators left your beach, stopped
watching your brain fight and splash
years ago. Because the doctors insisted
that gash isn’t serious. This puncture
should heal on its own.

There’s no evil to punch
on the nose, unless you want to
beat yourself up.

No need for 600 surgical-grade
internal stitches and staples
to keep your fascia and form
intact; to create the jagged line
that keeps you

interesting. But their scars will be
fascinating and featured
in People Magazine, along with
that harrowing quote, the one

about the exact moment you thought
I’m going to die.

I fight with boring things:
concrete, granite, hardwood. I fear.
I have no flight response.

These type of attacks, they happen
to 1 in every 11.5 million people.
What are the odds that I’m my own
daily shark bite? What are the odds

that someone would believe
how terrified I am of dry land?

 

Trinity

I was raised under stained glass. On Sundays
the parish asked the Lord to heal my legs;
to give my parents a miracle. I tried to kneel
for them. I sang glory and Hosanna the loudest.

But I knew I’d never wake up walking.
So I never asked why me or what if? God
was busy with other things.
I was just one middle class disabled girl
with decent health insurance. But

when my best friend’s all-star body
started to paralyze itself nerve by nerve,
the doctors didn’t find any answers. But they
still ran enough tests to flatline her bank account.

When she woke up unable to crawl or swallow,
she kept trying to reach you. God
all she heard back was static.
You can multiply that noise
by 8 billion people praying
for answers.

God, do their voices ring so loud
in your head that you doubt
your own divine judgment? Turned
the Holy Trinity into Psychologist,
Neurologist, Physical Therapist

so we would all feel better? Did you create drugs
like Abilify to enable us to stand up without you?
Is it easier to hand out prescription after prescription?
Prescribe to us instead of listening?
It’s no wonder

we have turned pharmacies into churches.
Pray to the insurance companies for
a whole month’s worth of Holy Eucharist.
We break pills like bread into smaller and smaller
milligrams to make them last longer. So many
of them dissolve so easily

on the tongue. We need these blessed uppers
to carry us closer to Heaven, help us swallow pain
when we fall back down. God knows

how much it hurts to drop copays
into so many collection boxes.  He sees
how we read warning labels like

the new Gospel.

Be careful not to overdose. God
only has time to lay hands
on some of us.

 

 

Natalie E. Illum is a poet, disability activist, and singer living in Washington, DC. She is a 2017 Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Fellow, as well as a non-fiction editor forThe Deaf Poets Society Literary Journal. She is a founded board member of mothertongue, a women’s open mic that lasted 15 years. She competed on the National Poetry Slam circuit and is the 2013 Beltway Grand Slam Champion. Her work has appeared in various publications and on NPR’s Snap Judgement. Natalie has an MFA from American University and teaches workshops across the country. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @poetryrox.

“Notes for My Therapist – 1” by Feby Joseph

I could be wading
in the effervescent joy of a Mozart concerto
or the tranquil beauty of Monet’s lilies, but
it’s never far.
Perhaps the next room?

It could be even as far as the moon
but it will travel at uncharted speed
and explode like ripe mangoes in the mouth –
The golden rivulets running down
the chin to stain white clothes.

I only have a few hints of its arrival.
I can feel it under my skin – It starts to numb.
I am only given a few hunches.
This ominous déjà vu.
This déjà vu.

Déjà vu.

I could be wading
in joy… (yet)
I still wear white again.

 

 

Hailing from the beautiful South Indian coastal state of Kerala, Feby Joseph is a spiritual vagabond who is still trying to figure it all out. At present all his formal education has landed him a job in a desert – in finance – so he works with numbers while words waltz around in his head. Some of his recent poems have appeared on Café Dissensun, Oratoria, and EntropyMag.

Art by Brian Michael Barbeito

“The Wild Moss”

(This photograph is of dark green wild moss that is strewn out over a long log. The green moss is thick and has received much sun and light. It is like a cushion or carpet and seems to still be growing.)

“Autumn Wildflower”

(This is a wild flower that is growing in the fall field. In the back are a blue sky and the tree line that is green because it is mostly made up of Pines. The flower has light brown and whitish shells that burst open and inside is a cotton or cotton-like material that comes out, but stays attached to the main flower while blowing around in the wind.)

“Berries Beside Log”

(These red berries are growing beside a large log and though it is a shaded area, the berries are in a spot where there is just enough sun that comes in to help them along. And they are hidden from people and animals, seeming to live in a kind of small secret habitat.)

“Clover Flower on a Hill”

(This flower is growing in the summer on a large and vacant hill where not much else grows. It is white and pink and is a type of clover. There is the cumulus clouds and blue sky overhead and the surrounding field around the flower and part of its stem.)

“Holly Plant”

(This is a holly plant. They are hidden off the paths and at first might not be noticed. The little berries that grow on them are delicate, white, red, and usually in amidst and hidden somewhat behind the larger plant. The red parts show or shine amidst deeply textured shades of green.)

“The Four Mushrooms”

(These mushrooms are a group of four that grow on top a barren tree stump in the deep forest. No animal or person has eaten them or knocked them off or troubled them. They are so close together that they have become shaped like individual entities trying to squish in this position or that for space. From left to right, the first is flat, the second is forming a V shape in order to fit beside 1 and 3, and the 3rd is growing sideways like a hat falling off a stem, while the 4th is more stretched out as it has more space.)

 

Artist’s Statement

These visual frames are taken in the woodlands and fields of nature trails in Southern Ontario. They are part of an ongoing photo narrative titled Pastoral Mosaics, Journeys through Landscapes Rural. The four seasons visit the areas where I walk, and the main trails, side paths, and deeper forests are rarely the same. The differing weather makes the same acres of land a highly interesting atmosphere. For instance, the same path can show verdant moss and colorful wildflowers on month, and then change to autumnal browns and beiges the next, followed by snow and ice, and of course, later on, all the new blossoms that that spring brings. At the beginning of this photographic journey, I only noticed vast areas of trees and perhaps some feral shrubs or flowers. However, as time went on, I discovered that there were many flora and fauna around. These include, but are by no means limited to, peculiar looking mushrooms of all shapes and sizes, areas saturated with dragonflies that seem out of a fairy tale, sunny summits inhabited by snakes, and small secreted creeks where water spiders travel on top and little fish, agile and coyly alert, dart around underneath.

 

 

Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian writer, poet, and photographer. Recent work appears at Fiction International from San Diego State University, CV2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing, and at Catch and Release: The Columbia Journal of Arts and Literature. Brian is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowl Pox Press, 2013, cover art by Virgil Kay). He is currently at work on the written and visual nature narrative titled Pastoral Mosaics, Journeys through Landscapes Rural.

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