Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shadows in the Headlights

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

car passes from behind, quickly
fades—or was it sleep 


—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

A shadow in the headlights—
that time of night when shadow
and imagination meet—a passing swiftness,
cutting across the road in front of me . . .

A dog, I thought. But it was long and lean
and swifter than a dog would run.
It stretched and leapt.
Dingo, I thought—

though our city
would seem a strange place
for such a thought to stretch across reality.
Then it was gone

into a wide dark field that stretched into another field
before the buildings took the darkness over.
I knew I hadn’t hit it, but it was so close to my car;
I could not even brake—no time!

What was it then?
A shadow, I thought—
only a shadow—
daring to cross the twilight streams of light.

(first pub. in Song of the San Joaquin, 2006, and
Free-Wheeling, Towe Auto Museum anthology, 2007)


—Joyce Odam

A car parked on the beach—its headlights staring out over
the water—watching for navy mermaids to swim
away from ships with their lonely tears—
watching for stars to fall into the fog.

How will this pining car adapt to tides?
the first waves lap at the shadows of its tires.
How will it know when to let go the land and drive out
to the horizon line just like the ships that have disappeared?


—Joyce Odam

Reams of light unfolding over the landscape—
the long way to anywhere—the time it takes to get there;

the silence in the car; the way time seems unreal when
you are obliviously lost; the billboards whizzing by—

unimportant in the dusk—why silence now?—there is
so much to say; the way direction holds true, no matter

which way you enter it; the belief in destination; in
safe travel, in never having to stop for relief or to refuel;

the moon is a clock; it moves across the ever shifting
night; it hides and reappears; it grows until it fills

the new horizon and bursts open, spilling its last
illumination. Oh, that can’t be real—this is

only a slow trip home in an old car, the way familiar,
but the whole world changed—the night air

coming in the window—only a few
last headlights coming by from the other direction.

(first pub. in Curbside Review, 2003)


—Joyce Odam

Her left arm was always more tanned
than the other from resting it
on the window edge as she drove.

I would get carsick from watching
the scenery too close. Don’t look
at scenery so close, she’d say.

As long as she had her little car,
we had the freedom to come and go,
come and go, come and go.

And back and forth we’d go: between
rainy Washington… Oregon…
and sunny California.

My California arm, she’d laugh,
with her left arm out the window—
fast wind tangling her hair. She’d sing.

I’d fall asleep in the back seat—
listening to the car engine—
feeling the rhythm of the road.

The car would break down somewhere
but she’d always manage to get it
started—or find someone who could.


Later—from her wheelchair—she’d laugh
and sigh: you know what I miss most . . .?
It was driving my little car . . . .

(8 syllables/line; first pub. in Free-Wheeling,
Towe Auto Museum Anthology, 2007)


          After "The Munich Mannequins" by Sylvia Plath
—Joyce Odam

All over town, store-window mannequins
gauge their night reflections.

All night, they bore through windows
with their perfect, expressionless faces.

Car-lights slide by, illuminating them
into brief exaggerations.

Sometimes, a rogue wind
will rattle its way past, swirling up leaves.

Sometimes, rain will beat against the glass
and alter their reflections.

There is always some random figure
that stares in with no particular intention.

A corner streetlight stares toward them
from its own monotony of function.

Sometimes, a late car leaves furtive tracks
in the rain and long echoes of headlights.

Of course, there should be a lone cat here,
right about now, but none appears.


—Joyce Odam

It is a long, slow street. Buildings lean
toward each other in shadowy confusion.
Windows breathe suspicion. Faces pull
back as I pass. Long rows of doorways
are tense as shoulders.

At the corner, under a sullen light, a pool
of apprehension spreads itself open, lonely
as a victim waiting for release, waiting to
confront the evil of itself as Evil happens.

Echoes fall into the darkness behind me.
I know what they say, and I will not turn
back to them or to my own lost speech;
I will no longer listen to the voices of
begging and promising.

Ahead of me is a wide, blank intersection,
a lone car careening forward into its own
speed and urgency, its headlights blurring
through a sallow fog that is drifting
everywhere. Inside that car I am breaking
into fragments, held together only by great
sobs of frustration.

I see the figure at the curb whose sharp,
long shadow distorts in all directions under
the corner light. I feel that person grab
the handle as I pass. Once more I am at the
mercy of myself.


—Joyce Odam

A mustard colored car on a dragging yellow day
cruising slow and mean down a long evolving street . . .

the lines dividing the dull earth from the dull sky seem
to waver and merge with all the motion there will ever be.

If a bird should call out, it would blend immediately
into the diminishing yellow landscape . . .

Funny how you can stare at a stopped scene for
such a long time you begin to wish it would never change.

However long it takes to know this will reveal itself
eventually . . . have patience . . . .

(first pub. in Free-Wheeling,
Towe Auto Museum Anthology, 2007)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

driving in that rain
distorting darkness
all the roads
glistened with depth and danger
too late even for police cars
where we had been
was important enough to be there
we were part of the storm
our eyes assuming the tense vision
of sleepless travelers
lightning everywhere
the road grabbed into the sky
we followed


Thanks to Joyce and Robin for today's tasty Kitchen stew, all on the theme of cars on a rainy street (amazing!). This week we continue the car theme for our Seed of the Week by picking up on Joyce's mustard colored car: Poem Beginning With a Mustard Colored Car. (This parallels the last two weeks' Word of the Day, by the way, which explored the names of car models and their original meanings). Send your musings on mustard cars to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And don't worry if your Muse drives up with poems related to past themes, forms—or things unrelated—there is never a deadline on such things in our Kitchen.

Our form for the week comes from Trina Drotar: see www.foundpoetryreview.com. It's also another submissions venue to add to your fame and fortune. See b-board for Poets.org's take on the form. (Since Found Poetry Review does NOT accept previously-published work—including work that appears on blogs—don't send your work to Medusa; send it directly to them.)

And our condolences to Hatch and Judy (Taylor) Graham on the death of their old sheep, Betsy, as well as to the rest of their animal family: Cowboy, the German shepherd who seems to think he must've been somehow remiss in his duties, and the rest of their small herd of sheep, which is looking for Betsy everywhere (including indoors).


Mustard colored car