How to Make Dark Blue

Cecily Patterson

Behind the eyeballs of a Siamese cat there is a residue that you could use, but the cat won’t hold still for the procedure. You could use a bad rash, but when it’s distilled it stays dark for only a minute, and then fades away to a watery red that rises like a blister, and when you pop it, it’s clear. You could walk the aisles of Costco, but that’s not a true dark blue, it’s something more neon that hurts behind the eyes, like someone is trying to remove a residue. The Thriftway is even worse. You may walk down the frozen food aisle and open a door near the Stouffer’s spinach soufflé and press that space between your eyebrows into the cold metal of the freezer spacer, and for a moment dark blue is there, but gone before you can snatch it with your fingers. So grocery stores are out.

I haven’t figured out how to get it out of a song. It’s there, but it’s inadmissible. It would never hold up in court, no matter how hard you plead. Go ahead, cry me a river, but when I boil it down, it’s your river, not mine, and it’s never dark blue. Your dark blue is not mine, although you may think so, and the blue that is ours is difficult to get to.

It’s just so difficult. Try an old black and white photo. Dark blue is sometimes there if you open your eyes just as the sun is going down and can catch the flash that shoots out. It has to be a photo of a group of people lined up in rows, people who work inside a company, like Alcoa, one where they wear jackets with wide lapels and white shirts and black ties. Can you see their eyes? Their eyes are black too, and what they are shooting out at you is no color; it’s like the wave from an old television, it’s gray. There is one woman, in a white dress, seated in the middle of the front row of thirteen men. Her eyes aren’t black, they are pale. If you are careful to watch the sun as it goes down, hovering and blinking on the edge of your field of vision, the black will coalesce and gather behind the pale, and a ray so clear and dark blue will shoot out of her eyes that you will have to catch your breath, and then you’ve swallowed it, and you can’t use it once you’ve swallowed it.

There is another photo, one of an army unit from World War II, of men mounted on horses. Lined up in rows, like the other photo. Still. Hands resting on pommels. Forget their eyes. Focus on the ground, under the horse’s hooves. You’d have to be able to hear the hooves as they pounded along the dusty red ground, and in that sound, in that pounding, is dark blue. I’ve heard it and caught it, and what I got was precious, but it was just enough to limn the shadow of a cat that raced like nightfall down the street, leaving darkness.

Try a bottle dump. An old one out by the edge of the woods, where the people threw things they didn’t want or couldn’t use. Sift around through the dirt in the early spring, after the frost has gestated and you might find a small blue bottle. You can chip away carefully, like you are mining a vein, not a bottle dump in Western Pennsylvania where they covered the boards of the house with fake brick Insulbrick and threw out the blueness. The bottles are all small, because they held something you had to be careful of. You be careful too, there are sharp edges. Salvage the good bottles and put them on the rough wood windowsill and put a yellow flower in each one, and when the sun shines through, you will know they are beautiful, but not what you were looking for. For a moment, though, they might be enough, like that moment when you’ve had the horse’s hooves inside you, and you know, you know, you can run like that too.

My mother thinks nature takes care of itself. It turns sharp glass edges into sea glass, bits you find if you walk along a shore in North Carolina or the San Juan Islands or a beach north of Mendocino. Walk, eyes on the ground and not on the horizon, looking for the glint of dark blue. Throw out some of those sharp edges you found in the bottle dump, and in a thousand years, the sea will return them to you smooth and rounded.

Pick up a shard. Use a hammer to crush it and throw the blueness to the wind like the ashes of a cremated thing, and they will blow away, blow away and come back as the residue behind a Siamese cat’s eyes. Pet the cat’s head. She is old now. The woodpecker that loves to drill the metal streetlamp annoys her. Nature takes care of itself. Perhaps his effort is dark blue. Perhaps dark blue is found between the seams, the seams of Levi’s that haven’t been washed, the seams of sapphires running like cold river through stone, the seams of ore that tattoo the grazed hands of miners mining coal in Western Pennsylvania, not far from the bottle dump.

Make a birdhouse out of beach glass. Put it out for the woodpecker. When another bird moves in, let it. Maybe its eggs will be dark blue. Robins have blue eggs, but not dark blue. Blue the color of the Siamese cat’s eyes before the dark blue has leached into the white. The robins will hurl themselves at the windowpanes in an effort to ward off the intruder, even though the intruder is their own self. Intrude on your own self. Throw your own self against that window. Maybe when it shatters, dark blue will rush out, up and out, and dissipate into the world, where we will grab it and use it to our own ends.

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