Friday, February 19, 2010

Beyond the Bickerings of Mice

The Hansens: Richard, Rachel and Ru
Photo by Katy Brown

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

I will send this key to my old lover—
make him guess. Love is mysterious.

He will wonder what it’s for:
what love . . . ? what door . . . ?

(Key-to-my-heart door,
the key—the lock—my heart—all rusted.)

He will unwrap the key with expectation
—turn it in his hand and try to remember

why it seems familiar—
why it keeps growing smaller and smaller

until it becomes a flaking blemish
in the rusty hollow of his palm.

(first appeared in Poets Forum Magazine)


Thanks to Joyce Odam and Mitz Sackman for today's riffs on our Seed of the Week: Locks, and to Katy Brown and Jane Blue for their wonderful, wonderful photos.

Yesterday, in a fit of impetuosity, I signed up for facebook. So now I'm on facebook and trying to figure out how to use it that's different from the blog. Pictures, for one thing: they can stay up a long time and there's physically room for more, given the whole "album" thing. So check out my page for more photos from the Snake Tribute. There's a shortcut down at the bottom of Medusa's Bulletin Board, but you do have to be a member of facebook. Which isn't hard—it's free, and you'd be surprised at how many of your friends will welcome you.

Need some condoms?

According to Bob Shallit at the Sacramento Bee, PR magnate Bill Bradley, co-founder of Sacramento’s Me Communications, has initiated a “couplet contest” to solicit the best lines of verse promoting condom use for National Condom Week. Top prize: 144 condoms. Send poems to Pharmacists Planning Services, P.O. Box 6760, San Rafael, CA 94903 by April 29. Note: they’re calling it a “couplet contest” but I can’t tell what the actual parameters of the contest are, and there is no more contact info, so I dunno. You might bug Bob Shallit about it at or 916-321-1049. [Insert “never too many condoms” joke here…]

This weekend in NorCal poetry:

•••Friday (2/19), 7 PM: Terry Moore will celebrate the release of his new book, Born To Love You, with a performance at the Upper Level Lounge, 26 Massie Court, Sacramento. $5. Info:

•••Fri. (2/19), 7:30 PM: The Other Voice features Zoe Keithley and Carlena Wike plus open mic, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis (reading is in the library of the church located at 27074 Patwin Road, Davis). Info: [See last Monday's post for bios.]

•••Fri. (2/19), 7-8:30 PM: "A Marathon of Love Poems: Poems of Love, Lust, and Heartache" with twenty local poets reading a few poems each (five minutes or less). Featuring: Katy Brown, Joe Atkins, Josh Fernandez, James Lee Jobe, Lytton Bell, Alexandra Sage, Jeff Knorr, Frank Andrick, SibillaHershey, Jim Benton, Catherine Fraga, Michelle Johnson, Stan Zumbie,l Crawdad Nelson, Quinton Duval, SLiC, Patricia Hickerson, Brad Henderson, Arnold Robbins, and EPG. Note location change from the Vox to SPC, 25th and R Sts. in Sacramento. Hosted by Cynthia Linville at Free.

•••Sat. (2/20), 8 PM: Word, Sound and Paint features V. S. Chochezi at Carol's Books, 1913 Del Paso Blvd., Sacramento. Free but donations welcome; all donations will go to Doctors Without Borders & St. Martin Helping Hands International. Plan to buy a book and support your bookstore.

•••Sat. (2/20), 9-11 PM: Phoenyx Reign is the featured poet at The Artistry of 319 at the Jazzyblues Cafe, 319 6th St., West Sacramento. Art viewing, poetry and spoken word. $5 Admission. Restaurant and bar open. Open mic.

•••Sat. (2/20), 5 PM: A very special poetry reading featuring novelist/Poet Mary Mackey and New York Editor/Poet/Publisher Sandy MacIntosh at Luna's Cafe and Juice Bar, 1414 16th St., Sacramento.

•••Sat. (2/20), 8 AM-5 PM: The annual California Duck Days will be held at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters, 45211 County Rd. 32B, featuring an exhibit hall with interactive displays such as trout fishing for kids, duck calling and a live bat workshop, as well as field trips. Cost is $20-$25 general, free for children younger than 16. Registration suggested for field trips. Info:

•••Sun. (9/21), 8:40-11:40 PM: NSAA & Ross Hammond perform experimental jazz plus poetry plus lyricism at Naked Coffee, 1111 H St., Sacramento. $5.

•••Mon. (2/22), 7:30 PM: A Night of Translation with Adam Siegel's Johannes Bobrowski and Friederike Mayrcker, Christoph Meckel, Marly de Oliveira, Ledo Ivo, Carlos Nejar—plus an open mic calling for anyone to read poems translated into English. Sacramento Poetry Center, 25th and R Sts., Sacramento. Info: 916-979-9706 or


—Mitz Sackman, Murphys

The only locks on our lives
Are the ones we place ourselves
The locks on our hearts to keep secrets
Too horrible to tell
The locks on our souls to keep safe
No matter what the cost
The locks between partners to carry
The weight of the burdens of life
Created by our locks


—Joyce Odam

(After “shadows on wall” – Mitchell Funk
Camera 35, March 1971)

All night they run past their shadows
on the wall—that patch of light

that holds them like stopped film:
time has locked and frozen them

to a moment of decision in this
fluke of light that won’t let go—

they strain within it—looming
out of perspective—their shadows

flailing—their bodies broken off
somewhere in the disconnected dark.


—Joyce Odam

(After “Henrietta & Astrid, Rome, 1987
Photograph by Marsha Burns, 1988)

hands together in their wealth
they light each other’s cigarette,

caress each other’s cheek
and love each other’s love

they touch and touch
and never touch enough

they smooth each other’s hair
and trace each other’s wrist

they move their hands like
envelopes of lust

claiming the shielded doorway
young and tough

they lock-in all the emptiness
they don’t discuss


—Joyce Odam

she said
croon me to wisdom till it snows


they rocked each other’s dreams
they locked their toes


they sang till morning found them
safe as souls

(first appeared in Urban Voices That Matter)


—Joyce Odam

I want to steal what the child artist
sees—this primary circle
addressed with wildest fingerpaints:

the thick red, the safe black underlay,
upheld by a sky-lake of purest blue—
no perspective to consider

but deep as a tilt of time
holding back death from life—
a center of love made reasonable.

A child’s eternity has to be
Now forever—
like this mandala—a cross of lines

to hold it from expanding
or shrinking, where one can be safe
as a tick-a-lock—all the way around.

Almond Blossoms in Capay Valley
Photo by Jane Blue, Sacramento

Today's LittleNip:

It is necessary for me to see the first point of light which begins to be dawn. It is necessary to be present alone at the resurrection of Day, in the solemn silence at which the sun appears, for at this moment all the affairs of cities, of governments, of war departments, are seen to be the bickerings of mice. I receive from the Eastern woods, the tall oaks, the one word DAY, which is never the same. It is always in a totally new language.

—Thomas Merton