—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
I’ve been to a few—flown by them,
too briefly to remember, or know,
where I had been.
they would come back to me.
I’ve been there—through, really.)
I would never go back to them.
(After Journey Through Time by Arbé)
tacked to the walls
in plain view
for all to read
in a languor,
She turns the pages
each self again:
content with each.
flutter in a waft of time,
She reads further.
he traces his findings into poetry,
his long and patient journeys
into what he knows and seeks to know.
This time he is a fisherman, standing
in patient loneliness while all around him
the sudden mouths of fish sing to his effort
and make him weep and fail.
How many mermaids
have offered him their souls . . . ?
He rewards their memory by saying
all their names on other shores.
What a soft shadow he makes
at twilight; small against the immensity;
small against the sky;
small against the swift night
which is never surprised
to find him there.
(After Circus Trio: Dancers and Punch by George Rouault, 1924)
It is the year of my birth. Three weeping figures
stand together and mourn some great sadness
which they share as they distort themselves,
wringing their hands toward each other.
Their eyes never connect, but stay downcast.
Their faces are bloated with grief.
They are beyond the comfort of words,
as if they have just learned of some tragedy.
Soon they will be called into the spotlight,
their costumes those of fools and comedians.
The band is beginning their entrance music.
Soon they will cavort and out-perform each other.
It is the year of my birth. My mother is joyous.
She holds me out to my future, which gathers me
in its folds and hides me from my sorrows.
Three circus figures are here for my amusement,
but they stand there weeping, wringing their hands,
away from me, toward each other. My mother
takes me from the reluctant arms of the shadow.
My future has been decided. My mother names me.
(After photo-album of historical “pornographic” portraits made
between 1850 and 1950, from the collection of French author,
essayist, and critic Serge Bramly)
This has nothing to do with death. This is
a dance of love—his costume of bones, her
naked flesh—danced before a black curtain.
They do not ask each other’s names. They are
anonymous; this is a masquerade and they are
mysterious, mesmerized by each other’s roles.
A spotlight watches them with its praise.
They arch and improvise in a single flow
across the wide oblivion of the stage.
The music has long since died,
but the night has consented to stay forever.
His bones are supple, and she glows.
He holds her against his cold intensity,
and they dissolve. This has nothing to do
with love. This is a dance of death.
My real name is Beauty, a name beloved by mirrors,
a name vanity favored, my first young name.
Cat says my name is Hunter, for she hunts vanity
and purrs to me her power.
I think of myself as Sunrise, for I am a Leo child—
a child of eternal summer.
Time calls me Lazy, and that is also my name,
for I love indolence and all things slow and effortless.
Priest calls me Purity, as do, husbands, lovers,
and all other saints and sinners who would define me.
Grief calls me Wisdom, for I have learned patience
and silence and other virtues of loss and deprival.
And silence calls me Sound, for I have returned
one to the other and named them synonymous.
Haven is my secret name, though I use it sparingly.
Only those who truly love me may shelter here.
under the poem
dead on the
round he goes
lyrical and thin
a brown song upon black
a black song upon him