Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Create a Mirror for Yourself

The Forest Primeval
—Photo by Sam the Snake Man

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

I am the unidentified woman—
only he knows all my aliases.

Destroy this memory:
there will always be a girl in a pink dress

whose fingers form a perfect heart,
whose wings beat back longing.

By morning the demons have all gone home.
Daguerreotypes ghost to silver.

                        * * *
Daguerreotypes ghost to silver.
By morning the demons have all gone home.

I am the unidentified woman
whose wings beat back longing.

There will always be a girl in a pink dress—
only he knows all my aliases.

Destroy this memory
whose fingers form a perfect heart.

                        * * *
Whose fingers form a perfect heart?
Whose wings beat back longing?

Only he knows all my aliases:
destroy this memory.

By morning the demons have all gone home.
There will always be a girl in a pink dress.

I am the unidentified woman—
daguerreotypes ghost to silver.

**"Destroy this Memory" is the title of a Richard Misrach photography exhibit, SFMOMA July 2011. Many lines in this poem were inspired by a visit to the museum.


(after “Draft of a Landscape” by Paul Celan)
—Joyce Odam

Razed. Stricken. Dug up and abandoned.
Memory’s neglect. Graves.
Small histories of small lifetimes.

Look for whatever you have lost
here somewhere. What is this place?
What has brought you here?

It is cold. It has no welcome.
It is a place without expectation.
You wander its terrain.

Ruts and stones, here and there a weed.
So that’s what you came to learn:
the tenacity of weeds; the patience of stones;

the caution of ruts. The horizon
cannot be reached, nor the end of day.
The sky is a separate thing.

You wish for a bird, and a bird flies by.
You are creating this.
Your own landscape.


—Joyce Odam

Why do we get off
I do not know this place
nor any of these people.
What kind of neighborhood
is this
with its houses
of no house-numbers
and its street-names
repeated at every corner.
I thought you knew
the way.
I have always followed what you knew.
But there is nothing here,
this old, ghost-town-of-a-place
you seem to remember.

You open a door
and go in
and after a moment
I follow, trusting you,
and find
a false-front house
with fields behind
and the famous tumbleweed
of movies
rolling past.
You should have
to make this poem mysterious.
But you are standing there
with lonely welcome on your face,
your arms extended.

(first published in Calliope)


—Joyce Odam

She’s made of
image. Glass can shatter that.

The window of love is open to regret.
Why suffer transformation in the dark—

why part the shadows with the knife of light—
become the one who leaves you—

lose your heart?
The map is hard to follow. You are lost.

Her hand is like a shadow on your face—
drawing you toward a phantom kiss.

Prepare to dream—she’s not more real
than this. Her eyes surrender,

but you cannot claim;
she’s in the echo of your cry;

she’s in the distance, bending to a face—
her own—

as if she conjures
her own self. She’s made of image.

Glass can shatter that. Create a mirror
for yourself.


—Joyce Odam

the sad stranger in the portrait
with the accusing eyes

and I who love strangers
feel the eyes follow

my eyes
that try to look away

and the portrait pulls me back
and I almost weep with regret

for what I may have done
and I accept my guilt

and the gold frame shudders
in a burn of hard light to brand me


—Joyce Odam

Here: In the corner of light we speak again
and again of the circle and the square,
the containments in mind and time,
the pressures that lift when
the aim of thought solves the puzzle.

incongruous to meaning:
that old polished word—
shall I name them,
they have changed: experiment failed.

The borders of the square are blank to surround:
What source shadow?
It falls aslant without explanation.
The eye follows:
Aimless attention to unimportant detail.


—Joyce Odam

I look to the way the music falls across the park—
the scratch-jazz of carried radios—the raggedy
strain of echoes—the years it came from:

the prickly lawns with their blankets and ants,
the time stolen from Sunday—or some such day,
when manic dogs and children would run

past the edges of leashes and habit-warnings.
Be careful! was what we used to say
to the children who were in no particular danger,

Be careful! was what the cats would say
to the birds, and the birds to the dogs, and the
exhausted dogs would finally lie down for naps.

The music refuses to blend. It overlaps—
crowds in—and shudders its way through
the park which closes at a certain hour when

the blue trees gather the dusk with its shadows
to prepare for the dance—the tree-dance of
this open place where ghosts convene,

and the trees lean in together and rustle and offer
some remark about the quiet of the scary
shadowy park, and say Listen…to each other.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

What do I see of the red-leafed tree
but curling leaves as it grieves
and grieves in the
summer sun
into a
tiny fist of
wrinkled red, while the
pliant base of the stubborn tree
sprouts a tiny clutch of soft red leaves.



Thanks to Cynthia Linville for sending us "just one more" linvillanelle to add to our stunning collection, to Joyce Odam for rounding out our Tuesday in her usual fine fashion, and to Michelle Kunert for the timely photo of last night's reading. Our new Seed of the Week is "The Forest Primeval". Have your way with it, and send the results to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. Or tackle anything else—no deadline on SOWs.

Dave Boles, Camille Roy, Bill Gainer
Sac. Poetry Center Reading, Aug. 1, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert