Tuesday, April 14, 2015

All Question, and All Answer

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


This maelstrom of self—this painting on mirror—
this discovery.  Will the child come true—continue

to be—primitive—child of the fierce, proud look?
How much discovery can glass hold?  How much distance

can extend behind the positioned, reflective self?
What does the child know beyond color and smear—

what does he grasp of perspective’s first freedom?
How much will the child retain of the old connection

between hand and mind and eye—and this canvas of
light—this pigment of the sun’s dispersive glare?

To what far self does the child begin to compare
with his rapt intensity?  See how he is private,

lost in his art; how he holds his brush, his body
braced, sure of himself?  See how his eyes insist on

his just-discovered right to perfection, how he fills
the glass surface and beyond, how he paints on through

the dimension of mirror:  paints the ground beneath,
paints the frame’s restrictive, bordering air;

how he paints the blue and dazzling sky behind him;
how he paints the lowering sun, how he paints himself?

(first pub. in Tule Review, 1999)



In your garden, I am lost soil.
I am unplanted flower.
I am pressed stone.

     .     .     .

I am in the side shadow of light
waiting for you to turn and say, “Oh”.
But you are bending and looking
into the discovery that is everywhere.

     .     .     .

The grapes that you hold are beautiful.
The tiny tomatoes are sweet.
The lemons are full of sunlight.

     .     .     .

I move through the spaces after you
but they close around me even as I speak.

     .     .     .

You move toward the dogs,
laughing and calling their names.
Each of them in turn runs up to you
for the rough touch of your affection.

(first pub. in Chaminade Literary Review, 1990)


It was not for lack of place,
there was enough of it,
posing all around us in the lack of air.

It was so thin here
for our breathlessness,
our excitement with each other—

the delirium of discovery—
love in its momentous power,
and we its brave young fools.

How shy we were
in the dissolving and blending
when we changed and were changed.

And this we took with us—
the memory that stayed faithful
though we regressed,

grew cynical
and careful,
and never climbed that high again.



She cannot find her way through the shifting rooms,
the lock of windows, the felt presence of another—
the way her shoulders touch darkness, and darkness

yields. Year after year she can hear a nightingale
in the center,
and year after year she seems to get closer to

the brilliant singing:  She imagines a golden cage,
its small door open to the solving light, and no bird
there, though she can still hear the singing.

(first pub. in Seattle Review, 2001)


She takes shape in the light, lets wind find
substance—alter her—move away—return.
She is still there, under every influence.

Sounds repeat her. Silence listens. She is all to
all. Her lover receives her—moves through her,
textureless—comes back, and she is different.

She goes through the walls of sad wings; her
own lift and assist in this small migration. She
assumes the distance—retains the white mask

and borrows the voice of shadow. Only the
horizon knows when she will arrive and what
will be there. She will keep the expression she

has worn for her life—the white mask of her.
Under that, her face will be calm. Her eyes will
be one with her thoughts. She wants to bring back

the experience: the way the light held her into being
—the way the dark contained her—the way love
remembered her—the way the wall of wings
let her through to their holding.



The words flew into each other—love
and love—on their white identical wings;

as image into startled glass.
Amour, said one; 

Amour, said the other
in the transparency of

glass / water / air

through which they met—
possessing each other

in a terrible collision—
the beautiful birds of language,

becoming one,
even as they broke through each other.


Your theme is not entirely relevant
to my reality.  How do I fit

your expectation—
fill in the numbered spaces,

like a jigsaw puzzle:
white on white,

the cuts identical and small
in a huge white box?

What kind of clue is this—
this map to  your theme,

as vague as a white road
in fog, paved swirlingly,

and a white sound that cries
forever in patient melancholy?

What can I say to you
that would not get lost here?

The cry is my own, and the cry
is your own, so eerily blended.



A white cat in the alley
on top of a black car
guided our way out
through the narrowness
where imagined whores
invited us
into their real arms.
Three houses down,
the volleyball net
someone had stretched
across the alley
laid claim
to this summer night
and blocked our way.
Your tiny house
pulled back to let us
turn our car around.
We tried three times
before we got it right.
Your blue car
when we looked back.
Your alley shadows
quickly covered
where we were.
A laugh or two
spoke out,
then all turned black
just as we found
the left turn
that we took,
a pitted path
that slowed us
even more.  Behind us
we could feel
the white cat
close its eyes
and start to purr.

          After "The Prisoner of Light, 1943" by Roberto Matta

, reaching for itself in futile effort, the way
light slips away from time
toward the other

: Metallic light.
Reflective time.
Love as the searcher.

Why else the fuse and warp of all this energy
combined and separate
—as love will ever be

—as time must be.
Merge and lose. Merge and gain.
Why question?

It must be that discovery is not complete
without the yearn to change what is discovered
: time as a path toward a circle’s end.

Let’s gild this thought—create transparency
so pure it will become a depth
within a depth.

Let’s silver it with blue so fragile it will tremble endlessly.
Let’s give it tiny fish and birds that swim and fly together
toward a mutual horizon.

This is where the light and truth
will reunite
: all question, and all answer.


Today's LittleNip:

I make a discovery in a poem as I write it.

—Rita Dove


Our thanks to today's Master Chef Joyce Odam for her contributions to the Kitchen. Her white cat in the alley is intriguing, so our new Seed of the Week shall be White Cat in the Alley. Send your poetic or other artistic thoughts about that cat (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com; no deadline on SOWS.

By the way, congratulations to Joyce and to Katy Brown and other area poets who won prizes at the Berkeley Poets' Contest last Saturday. Watch for next year's details about this long-running contest.