Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Days of Chances

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Why are you such an undertow
pulling me downward
through the futilities,
through the
heavy sucking waters
of disparities?
I am no swimmer.
The force
of dying love
is so crushing here
I cannot breathe the anguishes
between us.
I flail
and am without skill
of survival.
in the confusion and
churning effort of my resistance
I meet my own screams
mouth to mouth.


                  (After Edward Mycue,
                   Cover Art for

Black leaves against sky of mottled blue,
small clouds forming—the hour turning
the wrong way on the chalk-white wall—

losing time and meaning, and through the
latticed window an empty face looks down
at the woman outside, fleeing from her dream,

hands held wide with effort to run—pushing
against escape. She turns her head back and
the dream can be seen through her skull—

her head full of bees where the viewed dream
is a black swarm—buzzing  with warning: 
hurry,     hurry,     she is about to waken.

             (Portrait of Lola, 1899, Picasso)

She is aware of the night,
the red flares of light that blur like
wept images, as if something out there
is caught like a bird in the
branches of her thought.

She can feel the effort it makes
to pull free—but she, too, is caught
in the blue diffusion of the room
and the red feel of shadow
that gropes across the floor.

“Now let us continue,
woe by woe,”
she says to the night.
And the pulling window answers,
“It is so.”

She leans forward
and pulls out of herself
and feels the air move like a yield
of dream-water. Behind her,
her old space closes and releases.


          "A Good Chord On A Bad Piano"—Weldon Kees

On days like this, endurance is the test;
the hot or cold of life is what we blame;
the good or bad of it is much the same.
As long as there is time left to invest,
how we spend it is what we should claim.

To change all this, we might avoid the blues.
Familiar and remembered.  What we know.
So habit-forming.  All we have to show
for our misreading of life’s murky clues.
We always seem to find the undertow.

A downward drag is nothing but a drift
that takes no effort.  Energy is lost.
The sand grains of our falling merely sift
around us. We can still resist—can lift
to days of chances—find them worth the cost.


It takes forever.
Forever has no measure.
Only the goal
and the beginning—
a promise
and a goal.
One strives forever.
The goal is a word.
Forever is
the line upon which
the goal is written. The going
is the end toward which it hungers—
mountains and valleys under the weight
of effort, striving toward the word—ever
before you—a long line of letters—an alphabet
of going—toward—ever toward . . . .



A bird winds slowly skyward,
lifting a bronze shadow out of the murk.
It is heavy and lonely,
the last thought of a dying dreamer
who has heard the faint call outward.

What follows is grief, freed of weeping,
though it is heavy, too,
and folding like a weariness.
Too much effort is needed
to be free of truth and imagination.

A fan closes as if by itself, ending
the escape. The sky goes dark again.
Or stays bright. Who can say?
The delicate art is saved from eyes.
Nothing depicts.

Everything moves in relation
to everything else, even the stillness
which must breathe and wait.
A word is being offered to the silence.
A listener must make a choice.

Who am I to grieve over such things?
A dream cannot live without the sleep.
Let the bird go.
It is only your thought of it.
If it loved you, you will know.


Once upon a long road
into difficulty
we took turns
watching for signs.
But our eyes were slow
or looking at distractions.
And we always went deeper.

Each blamed the other.
We tore each other’s maps
in half
and watched for Nature-signals:
Streams of water.
Whichever way life goes.

At last we understood.
The roads went nowhere.
All that effort—
for this place
that we named
“County of Lost Love.”

Others followed.
Settled here
with us.
We raised our children.
Sent them out
with folded maps of prayers.
they would make it—
anywhere but here.

(first pub. in Calliope, 1991)


This red sky, full of anguish, full of fire,
ground-shadows pulling forth,
tendrils of green things curling
as into sleep,

this landscape of stones and shrinking sunlight:
roundness against roundness,
edge into edge.
All is texture.

There is no word for time here.
Time’s meaning is lost.
Everything is swift—is one thing,
then another.  No time for description.

It is the sky that suffers—
all that color, for the eye, for the mind,
or even for the sky.
One needs at least a bird here to make a cry—

something to flash
across the last patch of light on the ground.
But day is dying down. The relief
of this is too much to bear. Words won’t do.


Today's LittleNip:


It was as if all came apart at last in decaying pieces:
hopes    words    shadows    fringes
all the gloss tarnished, dull as a sparrow,
that common bird God cared so much for.

It was as if everything narrowed to a sigh—
long and eloquent, like a last note from a tired flute
being put down and left forgotten, say on a hillside,
or a windowsill, or carefully returned to its box
with the red cloth lining to keep it like new.

Music is like that—sacred somehow, and never known
fully, but for the little effort made, or the grand finale.


—Medusa, noting that we have a new photo album, World Music & Dance Festival, CSUS, by Michelle Kunert, on Medusa's Facebook page, and that our new Seed of the Week is At the Movies. Not everything that happens at the movies is up on the screen, yes? People attend movie houses less and less these days, but I have many memories, fond and otherwise, of things that went on, both in the dark and up on the screen… Send your poems, photos and artwork about At the Movies to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.