Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Thinner Than The Rain

Swim Around the Shadows
—Photo by Robin Odam, Sacramento

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento


This is a long poem
I must write on a
continuous roll of paper.
I will roll it and roll it
under my thought
until I get the thing said.


there is a broken stanza of despair
to say.
If you call it life 
or love
you will be right.
I will not tell you.
It is your stanza, too.


Once I thought love was complete and
the saving of me.
Now I laugh bitterly when
I realize how complex
I have become.
I do not know myself or you.


What shall we do
when death comes to us
and says, “Which one?”
Shall we flip a heart
or a dark coin
before we answer?
What will we do?


Let us go do something we have never done.
Walk naked in the rain.
Nobody will see us,
for we are invisible to others
and thinner


Let us stand and look at each other’s eyes
for a long time
in the rain-light
and really learn each other.
Are you afraid?
I am.


Well, then, no matter who tears us apart,
let us break softly
and without pain
and lie in our tangled ruin
and call
our names.


What I really want to say is
I love you.
Say it simply
and have you know it is true.
And so I say
all the other things instead
and we bewilder
and grow too quiet.


About the rain,
next time it rains
let us do
walk in it
and become silver and green
beautiful children of ourselves.
Let us start again.
Love is such a long summer.


When I call you in my sleep,
do not answer.
I will tell you my dream
and you will not know me.
I live so many terrible lives in sleep.


Once you came home like a stranger
and I turned into another person, too.
And we accused each other
for our
single desperation.


The last stanza, too, is despair.
For those who love,
or think they love,
there is always another danger.
When love is wounded
love makes an angry sound.


Three times I lifted my broken wings
and flew silently away,
limping and falling deeper than
my climbing.
Have you ever seen the eyes of love
when they were beyond crying?


I came back to your sadness with my own.
It is no good to be alone,
we assured ourselves.
But we are often alone,
with so much emptiness to fill
and lost in all that danger.


Promise me
that when the fog comes
you will not be dark to me,
for that is the direst time of all,
when I am most porous
and susceptible to
my various madnesses.


Those gray gulls know
how I am destroyed by winter.
They know!  They know!
for they feel my gray eyes trying to find them.
They cry,
Sea,      sea,       sea,
when I am drowning.


I shall survive the fog.  I always do.
I will drink red wine
and fill the sponge of myself with rosy words
and turn on all the lights
and play fluorescent music
and last till spring.  You’ll see.


Our children will not know us
in the spring.
We shall throw secrets to each other
with our eyes.
And our hands will remember
how we were,
and how we are will be
the same.


All the stanzas are honest.
I’m sorry.
I am so many knives
and so many cut surfaces.
But, my wounded darling,
so are you.


Did I tell you that love would be easy?
I don’t remember.
But if I did,
let me tell you something further.
It will never be easy,
but sometimes we will think it is.


You have told me everything you are
and I believe you.
See?  I do love you.
It took me all my lives,
but I love you.


There are other things to say, of course,
but no one has written words
for all the feelings people have.
Language makes a poor salve
to cover what the senses know.
And healing
is not in the mind.


Tell me once more
how real we are.
I am made of cloth and wind,
and you are made of reflection and rain.
Tell me how that makes us real.
We are not old scarecrows
in somebody’s pitiful garden.


The crows are not afraid of us.
They sweep about
like beautiful, black witches,
sending their ragged song
into the stillnesses.
I feel weeds rustle within me,
but I hold out my hand to you
and it is filled with green flowers.
If you accept them
I’ll know where we are
and who.


Oh my love, it is raining.
Feel the beautiful, streaming rain
all over our bodies.
I can see the wonder, silver rain in you.
I cannot take my eyes from
so much wonder.


The rain is a promise you kept.
You look at me strangely.
I am filling with
bright knives of rain.
I am divided endlessly.
When I move
I move in wholeness.


So when I tell you mysterious things
you cannot fathom,
pretend to understand.
It is only
that I love
from a deep complexity.
The gulls know
and the rain,
but never the woman and the man.


If you can sign your name
with mine
to this
we are not beyond our pledge.
We have lived the most terrible stanzas
of a desperate poem.
At least we are honestly written.
And we are not really alone. 


Our thanks to Robin Odam for sending us these photos to go with this poem of her mother's, bringing Joyce Odam back into the Kitchen after a couple of rough weeks of hip surgery. Robin writes:

I’m sending this to you on behalf of my mother, hopefully for this coming Tuesday’s column—she wrote this poem when I was a young teenager, probably more than 50 years ago. I remember when she first read it to the poetry group that met at her home (Ann Menebroker was probably there that evening, she may remember it). The group was the result of an adult education poetry class—when the class was over they didn’t want it to end so they continued to meet and eventually went on to form the El Camino Chapter of the California Federation of Chaparral Poets. There was a running joke about how someone would almost always end their turn at reading and then add “I have just one more short poem….” That night I remember Mama reading her selections and then playfully announcing, “I have just one more short poem” and rolling out this very long roll of paper. At first they thought she was joking, until she began reading it.  Please see attached, "The Rain Walkers". It really does belong on a continuous roll of paper, but six pages will have to do for this sending.

I am happy to report that she is much improved after a difficult surgery and a very rough week. She is gaining strength quickly and beginning to write. She so longs to get back to her poetry and her poetry people!
Robin is referring to the fact that Annie Menebroker and Joyce began their journeys in poetry together here in Sacramento at an adult education poetry class back in the '60's, which is where they met. And now, all these years later, they both remain Forces in Poetry, having expanded their writings and publishings far beyond Sacramento and back again.

Oh—and our Seed of the Week is That Special Gift


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Now feel
the balancings—
all the subtle
shiftings—the changing light,
shadows quickening—music
of the rain.



 Waited for You
—Photo by Robin Odam