“Blue the Green Sky” Stuart M Buck (The Broken Spine) – book review

Stuart M Buck Blue the Green Sky

The title suggests that Stuart Buck is inviting readers to look at the familiar, the sky, with a new lens and a dash of confusion. The sun does not normally leech colour into the sky to turn it green, but the implication is that from confusion, a considered truth may emerge. Expect questions, to stop and think and reflect.

First up is the almost obligatory cat poem, simply called “cat” which didn’t come with trigger warning but introduces the idea of suicide and ends,

“we are all decomposing slowly

so that is of some comfort

we are all a million dying stars

so that is of some comfort “

The ability of the narrator to be comforted by the idea life will end anyway and it ends for everything around us is enough for him to accept natural causes is a better way to go. It also shows how something unexpected, encountering a cat, can knock someone out of a rut, a pattern of rumination and look beyond themselves. Instead of feeling like a burden the world would be better off without, the narrator has seen he can have a place in this world and the current pattern of things will stop, not with a sudden jerk, but a series of small changes. In case the poet could be accused of bias, the next poem is “dog” who suggests he was an abused child in a former life,

“and sometimes i sit in the bright pink

sunset and stroke the beautiful dog

but sometimes i do not”

Two traumatised beings comfort each other. But the narrator comes to recognise that the companionship lasts longer than during the sunset. Knowing there is the possibility of meeting the dog each day is sufficient comfort. This theme of connection, of someone you connect with not needing to be actually present, is continued later in “poem about everything” when the end of the world is no longer a theory,

“i will tell so many people that i love them that their fat

beautiful hearts will explode and as the sun sets a bruised socket

and we can finally see the sky is falling

i will turn to you and tell you for the first time and the last

that i loved you most of all”

It’s a love poem both to the universe and a partner. “Fat” is emphatic unlike “full” which tails away. It’s also a word not usually associated with “beautiful”. It’s echoed in “socket” and “last” which gives the poem a sense of finality. However the two lines ending in “falling” and “all” offer a softer contrast.

In “midnight in prague” there’s a love letter to the city and its artists,

“i want to see the prague of kafka, the writer whose very ink runs like jet-black blood through the streets. who shaped the narrative of the city and the culture with his surreal and infinite descriptions of life and confusion. whose turmoil and torture led to some of the finest works of literature i have ever read. the prague of kupka, the artist whose work bent and warped alongside the city itself. who woke one morning, not unlike gregor samsa, and decided that life was something else entirely. whose paintings went from stately to thick, bizarre creations dripping with geometric whispers.”

Later, she becomes a meditation on love,

“and again, what is infinity? can you pull time inside you, softly as you might allow a lover to explore the most holy parts of you? to feel infinity is, i believe, to place your thumbs over the eyes of a ghost. to feel the soft, giving eyeballs below. to have the power to end the sight of another, but instead to feel the flitting, papery wings of their dreams. if this is to be the end of all things then let me hold your body tight against mine, to breath with you, to coat my tongue with starlight.”

Gregor Samsa was the unfortunate who woke up as a bug in a story that explores a sense of alienation and restlessness while the main character is drained by bureaucracy. The foreignness of Prague to a visitor who doesn’t want to be a typical tourist becomes a city of exploration and chance to shake up the regular order of things, to look afresh. The speaker withdraws from the potential violence of pressing the eyes of a ghost and decides to read their dreams instead. As ghosts haunt those they once loved, it seems natural for the narrator to turn his thoughts in that direction.

“Blue the Green Sky” lives up to its promise: an exploration of the familiar looked at aslant. It probes beyond the surface of what’s seen and does so with a sense of wonder rather than a dry, scientific eye. Stuart M Buck keeps his vocabulary plain, aiming to engage readers who are then invited to discern the layers under the surface.

“Blue the Green Sky” is available from Broken Spine.

Emma Lee’s The Significance of a Dress is available from Arachne Press. The link also has a trailer featuring the title poems and samples of some of the poems from the collection. It is also available as an eBook.

Emma Lee The Significance of a Dress cover image
The Significance of a Dress Emma Lee book cover

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