—Photo by Joyce Odam
—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
This page of pity
is for your great loss,
is for your sad song,
is for your mute cry.
I have unrolled it for you
as if it were a scroll,
as if ink could ever
wear such woe
and not bleed there
who are you to come to me
with such great sorrow
and spread its shadow over me
like a wing of heaviness.
My shoulders ache
this lip and this chair
for my speech and comfort,
for my white space of effort
which is a new page
I borrow this old arrow
to be my direction
and my luggage of light.
They will get me there.
All you who wait
on side roads and benches,
I will not rest till you find me,
greedy as a stare.
Oh, failing eyes,
go by me.
It’s all right.
I borrow patience for forgiveness.
We are solitude. We are public with mercy. We will
never tell lies unless you ask for truth. We are full
of ourselves. You better believe us. We are every-
thing to everything—born perfect—fading from
our own memory. Believe us when we tell you what
we know. We have secrets. Never probe. You may
love us when we’re young, desirable as innocence,
easy as traps. We save words for spells. For intona-
tions. For comfort. When we are old and you are
bewildered by us, we will let you go. Or stay. Be
careful how you use the word love. We will exam-
ine it like a street too wide to cross,
in a slow-motion dream with no end to any story.
The cat has been stroked and has
left my lap to the
lamplight in the dark morning.
Hum of early traffic begins . . .
no . . . only an airplane drone,
My pencil scrapes the page with a
strange sound—whisper of language
a pen does not know.
A thin whine in some far background
says, Here . . . Now . . .
in my ear only.
Shall I rise to the dark morning
and put all this away
Now that morning
no longer belongs to me,
I am distracted.
But the words still compel me
with their illegible scribble.
Time is going, and they accuse me.
Where is the comfort-cat now
. . . that silent shadow of
casual existence . . .?
January 2nd is missing, or did you
lose—too soon—all your resolve?
Are you secret, or out of volition?
I kept faith with your resolution,
but you have become private—
choosing not to let me in on your
calendar of days as you spend
them. And I, who was ready to
accompany you, am left stranded
in a glitch of my life—my thumb
extended—on a long empty road.
It is dusk. And cold. And I didn’t
bring a page to fill—or a pencil
to fill it with—let alone a thought.
And I wonder if tomorrow you
might yet drive by and rescue me,
or if ever I should believe in anyone
again who voices their persuasive
intentions. I expected the full
365 days—not—this soon—gaps.
(first pub. in Sakana, 2005)
AN EMPTY PAGE
I wish I had words on this page.
Thought vanishes as I think it.
Time is culprit and suspect.
I wish I had words.
TORN PAGE AS A COVER DESIGN
I like the way the cover is torn
a sort of artifice of design—
a deliberate tear to look real,
a corner of thought,
to touch in chagrin
and frown with disapproval:
Books are to be respected,
on one side of the argument, &
Books well-read, well-used,
from another point of view.
So why this
pretend tear—drawn there—
or photographed from a real tear
in simulation. Hard to know.
Somehow, though, I’m glad
the tear is not real—and only faux.
ON THE DEATH OF POETRY
We talk of light the way we talk of dark.
We mention gray twilights for compromise.
But, really, it is only light and dark.
Our voices set against each other—shrill
and distant—our gestures rising in a dance,
intense with choreography.
Night flounders down
We fold into its tangled garments and sleep.
I wake briefly to see someone searching
among us for whatever she has lost. She
picks up page after crumpled page and reads.
She nudges each of us with a question.
But that is not it. She picks up a child from
the center of us and carries it away with her.
The window is full of birds. One of the birds
thinks up a song of pure senseless joy
and begins singing.
TIME AS A PAGE WITH NOTHING ON IT
This is the sky of winter—this slow and heavy
gray, with its weight of ghostly birds that sift
into each other’s cries—and lose their way.
(first pub. in Caught Against the Years
SpiralChap from Rattlesnake Press, 2005)