Davyne Verstandig


The Poignant Sorrows of the Blue Distance –a novella

Nothing was ever empty. What was gone left wounds – invisible and loud

It was a summer of Maine and islands and the one called Resolution Island.
Maine days and nights were longer in summer than anywhere else on earth. There were Harborside days – bright blue light, story book clouds, schooners sailing before the horizon line, crabmeat and blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, rosehips –the cinnamon scent of wild roses growing along the rocky shore, camp fires made at sunset in the sand, stone and beach glass expeditions, gathering driftwood, baking peasant bread in the Queen Atlantic woodstove, painting nude at the studio behind the wall of lilacs, cold beer and lobster, mussels picked at low tide, wide high sky, Venus sharp and brilliant above the horizon line, meteor showers, falling stars, blue moons, lying at the edge of the water as the tide changed, morning walks seeing bear, moose, and deer, seals sunning themselves on ledges beyond the cove, watching the slow perfect scribbling of the snail trail language, the scent of the hidden sweet grass, wood smoke and salt, later—those few seconds when everything was silent as the tide changed from low to high or high to low – the rushing in and out and in of moving watered silence, the brush waves, the tunnel waves, the tide changing over her body as she lay on the sand, the coming silently –then the waves turning out again –changed -the waves climbing back out –seconds so profound she thirsted for them all day long, hungry to lie there at the tide line waiting for the change, checking the tide chart for the exact time to go down the edge- wait watch – and listen. At the moment of turning tide – it was a still moment – the still moment of the turning tide.

She built a beach fire at a certain point on the sand so when the tide came in –just to the edge of the campfire- the ocean would extinguish it –then Nora knew it was time to climb up the hill and walk home.

That was a Maine summer. During the long winters she dreamt of Maine and felt the tightness of longings for summer islands. Then the sweet sorrowful yearning would end and she would find her way back to the islands - long distant dreaming over.

Nora rented a cabin on a small island just beyond Stonington Harbor. A family friend owned the island and hadn't used the cottage in years. Nathaniel helped her open it up in May and then he was content to leave her to herself until she asked him to close it in October- weather depending. She was alone on Resolution Island and her time as island solitary began.

From Lovers are Islands
a novella by Davyne Verstandig

It was around 11 a.m. on a Tuesday morning on Amsterdam Ave. The rush hour o was over and it was not quite lunchtime. It was sunny and cold, that January still cold that stays in New York's buildings. There were spaces in the traffic now - spaces between and buses and the taxis, the limousines, the delivery trucks and vans. Hope was walking to Dante's apartment to pick him up and then they'd take the subway downtown to meet Luke and Match. Dante lived with a guy named Raphael, a trumpet player, a New York City sideman, who played everywhere and everything; commercials, wrote and played jingles, played in Broadway shows, sometimes society bands. Other times he sat in with Luke's group Jazzen but mostly he played with a brass group, Blowing Brass. Hope could hear Raphael and Dante playing by the window of their apartment, over Saul's Kosher Butcher Shop. Even though it was cold the window was half open. New York apartments were notorious for their hot, dry forced heat. When the heat was on it smelled like rust. The apartments were more claustrophobic than usual because of the intensity of the heat. It made one long for those steamy summer nights.

They were playing "Round Midnight" as Hope approached and he was smiling all the way down the block. He loved hearing music played from windows. It was private and intimate. You were
eavesdropping on the musician playing for him/herself- making sweet sorrows in the air. Hearing music while walking below an open window you were connected to a mystery. You had to stop, stand below it, have a smoke and lean into the afternoon.

Hope could see Raphael bending and pulling back, moving as the music was light and sharp, round and bending, moving in and out of the spaces, traffic moving with those spaces - time by the window, time to smoke beneath a trumpet's window -time to play to the windowed world, playing to the morning of the world.

Inside the apartment Dante was dressing his upright bass. "Bessie" he called her, not after Bessie Smith- but after the cow - big and giving. He was putting her into her canvas case to take her down to rehearsal. Dante was a big man, tall, maybe 6"4 or so. He held the bass like a dance partner at a slow dance, close, almost leaning into the front of her, almost cradling her. Somehow when you saw Dante with Bessie they were a couple but when you saw Dante on the street or in a bar, anywhere without her, it was clear something important was missing. It was like those couples you see, out alone, and they just seem incomplete- a little lost maybe or just awkward. Dante was like that. There was something missing when Bessie stayed home, standing in the corner of the living room. He always faced her towards the window. "So's she can see life outside, feel it, bring it inside her" he'd say, propping her just so whenever he left her alone.

When he plucked the strings, he plucked his depth, too. It was like watching him fondle his heart, find the rhythm, stretch, glide-find his soul and pull back from dark into light – pluck strings of sorrow or joy. He held her in his arms, he played her tough and firm, up and down, gliding to find the notes, glistening with sweat as he worked her strings, glistening and gliding, up and down, glistening, gliding, plucking and pulling her strings.

A Lucky Strike hung from Hope's mouth. "I always wanted to play life between the black and white keys. You know the piano. Between harmony and discord lies the sense of it, the meaning.  There is jazz, between the notes and the blues they're pressure in the space. Between the keys where white and black dive - there in the middle where light is lost there is I what I want to play  between and beneath the white and black keys of the piano."

Luke played sax, Hope piano, Match drums and Dante bass, with an occasional appearance by Raphael on trumpet. "There were times then when the words and the voice couldn't make the song sing, when the melody wasn't necessarily the reason for anything and the season for the reason was the very being of its becoming and what wasn't didn't and what couldn't, never did and the why often became because and left a doubt with the didn't and the couldn't couldn't and the can't wasn't even going to try so they didn't. What we couldn't, and we never even tried to wouldn't what we couldn't. And sometimes we knew why," said Luke.

The music roared and the colors fastened themselves to the air. Sometimes the music spoke colors and its shades spoke shadows. Other times the strings plucked gut deep and crimson, while tangerine danced its brilliance in the courtyard of meaning and sound rocked the streets in the wind.

Hope's best days were those he spent on and between the keys, that place of spontaneity, that edge moment where silence is the sharpest sound. He lived on the edge, the rim of darkness and light. Between the keys one night appeared Danielle, luminous, with tiny gold orbs for earrings, spinning worlds on each side of her face. Her skin was pale blue, the veins beneath shone through making her magnificent and odd looking. Her hair was black, a short crowned cap, thick, curly and electric. There was a blue shine to the coarse crown. Hope was dazzled by her black eyes, shining with wonder and sorrow, yet ancient and waiflike, too. Danielle wanted to sing but she was too full of some agony to let go - too full of years of danger to open wide the road from heart to throat. She liked being with Hope because he was often somewhere else, alone in the music, making something new at the knife edge of each note's beginning- making melody, riffs and stories.

Danielle's pearlescent pink lips were pursed, tightened from the pain she held back from the songs she so wanted to sing. She liked Hope but she loved the White Lady, cocaine. Coke kept everything fresh, kept it new, kept the buzz sharp and clear.