—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
This window full of stars, and gray clouds
moving, and shift of prayers—or perhaps
just angles of old light still fading into the
end of itself—this long day taken like the
others into slow eternity.
Why do I mourn it as if it were the last . . .
Soon the window becomes black, and I tire
of looking through it into such a cold dark
sky, and I turn back to my dark room—
turn on the lamp, and become a small and
equidistant square of light to the immense,
IN THE CHAIR BY THE LAMP
Small poetry woman,
coiffed hair so white,
so softly come
to our gathering
to sit in the honor chair . . .
you diffuse, somehow,
in tangible light . . .
I can see
the shape of your skull
through your thin lit hair.
How she rose into light,
this city gull,
past the front of my car
to the top of the street lamp
and positioned there
her wings folded down
then her wings opened and she rose
into the high shrill air
with a cry that I felt
clear through to my heart
as she soared
in a beautiful slow white soar
above the death-averted car.
AN OLD WAY
This swathe of light, beckoning us toward
the house—the door open—the trees leaning
outward, forcing their shadows back—the
path itself losing dimension as does the time
it takes to get from here to there.
The light spreads and the sky lightens a bit.
A moon takes shape through the clouds and
the trees suggest themselves.
We lift the lantern—up and out—to gauge
some element of the night that is becoming
heavy and dense with slowness. Does the
house recede? Its windows flicker and flare
and offer nothing except an old way to it—
You sit in the floor-light
of the lamp and talk to me,
saying how madness claims you.
The doorway outlines you
to a graven performer.
I cannot recede into mind-darkness,
you have it all
at the gesturing end
of your fingers that twist so
in your agitation . . .
I am the one
in bent and inconsolable sadness,
curving inward to a deafness
while you articulate
your charming pain for me.
(first pub. in Coffee and Chicory, 1996)
DURING THE FRED ASTAIRE SPECIAL
You read my poetry
in a photographic position
the lamplight at your back
intensity of concentration
while I watched your face
for the least reaction
wanting to ask
which one? which page?
though I kept silent.
Afterward you said how very much
you liked it, and all this tine
on the TV, Fred Astaire danced.
FOR YOUR WHITE LIPS
Because your love is widowed now
and you are wife
you hold all that you are inside.
He goes there too, but we who
love you seekingly hold lanterns
in the shadows of your life.
We bring you honest wine
for your white lips. Be drunk with us.
Be glassy-eyed and louder than you are.
Let your mouth be stained
with our red gift. Come out with us
and whirl upon the lawn.
We are yet children . . . and the stars
are gone from day…but we will
find them, clinging
to the loosened sky as we intoxicate
the night, a game we know
that we would have you play.
(first pub. in ARX, 1970, slightly different version)
I fault the slow light, which is arriving
in your eyes. You look at me.
I fault the meaning of my own vague
reach for meaning. You explain me.
I cannot answer this. I am not who you see.
A darker look is beginning.
Whoever comes through the dark with lanterns
is archaic here. The dark is our dark.
Do not be grateful for distance traveled too far.
This was never a reality.
Have you mentioned the stones, how you loved
them and gave them up? Love requires sacrifice:
Here is its grave. This little plot of air.
Fill it with ashes.
Thanks to Joyce Odam for her Lanterns in the Darkness poems, our Seed of the Week. This week, let's tackle Spring with Cherry Blossom Time. And don't forget the N-SOWs over there in the green box, plus our weekly Form to Fiddle With, which is the Septolet this week.
It's Poetry Out Loud time, when high schoolers (in partnership with Cal. Poets in the Schools) memorize and perform poems with the help of adult coaches. Some of these students will win and go to Washington D.C. for the national finals later in the year. Tonight, the El Dorado County finals will be held at 7pm at the Imagination Theater, 100 Placerville Dr., on the El Dorado County Fairgrounds in Placerville. The event is free to the public; doors open at 6:30pm. Moira Magneson is Poetry Out Loud coordinator for ED County, and Shawn Pittard coached. See eldoradoartscouncil.org for more info.
Then, tomorrow, the Sac. County Finals will be held at Rosemont High School Auditorium, 9594 Kiefer Blvd., Sacramento, 12:30pm. Free! These will be the winners from 15 area high schools.
General information about Poetry Out Loud can be found at cac.ca.gov and poetryoutloud.org
STARE FOR STARE
The face at the window is my own,
made of room light. How it mocks me,
hanging there. Like a lantern.
Rain falls through it. I am dry-eyed.
I mock my apparition. Not one tear.
(first pub. in My Best Regret, Mini-chap, 2008)