Review: While You Blue-step

While You Blue-step by Mary Belardi Erickson
(Aldrich Publishing, 2012)

The poems in While You Blue-step examine the verge between nature and man. Some images are ordinary while others are strange. Swallows nest in metal culverts, butterflies and weeds invade a trash heap, minnows swim under railroad crossings, and a lone pelican lands beside a barn. Trains rattle across many of the pages and water flows throughout.

Like water, the book seeps and eddies from one poem to the next. The connections aren’t always obvious, but there is a general sense of movement. Of momentum without acceleration. By the end of the book, I felt as if time had passed and wisdom had been gained, even though I had not been aware of either process.

For me, the author’s voice is subtle, almost plain. But there are intriguing complexities in these poems, which depend more on meaning than music:

“Life swallowing you       like the whale did Jonah.”    (“Whaling Song”, pg 9)

“you fling pebbles
as if equating impact with answer
in a lifetime of making all blues
a wishing pool.”    (“A stone plunks”, pg 14)

“Winter takes off its gloves and cold
snaps its fingers like a magician
giving his audience an icy look.”    (“Cold Snaps”, pg 44)

While You Blue-step is not a book to be read once and returned to the shelf. My copy will undoubtedly end up creased and scarred, written-in and highlighted. Unmistakable signs of respect.

After Mother’s car accident, I stayed in her house a few months, in Huntsville, Alabama. While You Blue-step reminded me of those months. Chipmunks lived under an old shed in her back yard, and train whistles woke me with their unfamiliar cries in the night. Then there were months of emptiness and grief, after Mother died, and I’m only just now reaching the point where the world is familiar again. I am like the leaf on pages 18 and 19:

“touching ground means finding
waters, yourself flowing from time
to time.”    (“As a leaf”)


Dandelions? I’m eternally fascinated with them.

Purple Dead-nettle? I think it’s beautiful

However, even I have limits. Thistles are tough on my bare feet and the dog’s tender toes.

And ants? I don’t mind them in the yard, but they’re never content to stay in the yard. They always want to move into the garage, or the kitchen, or the mailbox…

But it’s good to have limits, isn’t it? Otherwise life would dissolve into a mad, messy carnival of happiness.


On the other hand, thistles are quite pretty…


A family of chipmunks lives in Mother’s yard. My experience with these tiny burrowers is limited, so I’ve been enjoying their company.

I am most fascinated with their reaction to gray squirrels that browse the yard’s maple trees. Whenever squirrels are around, a single chipmunk will bark a raucous, staccato alarm. I can’t decide what the alarm’s purpose might be, as the squirrels and other chipmunks seem to ignore it. Perhaps this guard is a unique individual, exhibiting a behavioral quirk that is politely ignored by everyone except me?