Jean Monahan, “Blue Laws”

Thanks to Margaret Clukey and Grace Pham for their thoughts.

Blue Laws (from Poetry)
Jean Monahan

Shell of New England mussel,
Wrenched in two. Black-blue.
Blue whale: 90 feet of cold shale
Blue: inside it, the seas rendezvous.
Siberian iris’s indigo-violet.
What keeps the white lilac pale.
Blue Monday. Turquoise noon.
What you want will burn you.
A phase I’m going through, like the moon.


The mussel shell might be black-bluish on the surface, but it has been “wrenched in two,” and one wonders about the small organism inside. Presumably that is bruised and battered too. A much larger specimen is the artifice of the water – shale, as Grace noted, is hard to distinguish from the water if you’re on the outside looking in.

The distinction between the organism and home is all but obliterated when “whale” is brought forth. “Inside it, the seas rendezvous.” We are moved from the animate to the nutritive. “Indigo-violet” – not exactly blue – through contrast “keeps the white lilac pale.” Our speaker has wide, all-encompassing experience (“seas”) marked by pain (“black-blue”). What her would-be lover sees are beautiful moments in her that only exist in contrast with her bluer moments. She dwells in entire days that are blue (“turquoise noon”). The “moon” creates the proper contrast: she isn’t a flower or flowers. The white moon pulls the blue tides, dependent in a sense on what is underneath.

1 Comment

  1. Gorgeous; I love how the short lines are full of colors, it really fills the imagination.

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