Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Shortcuts Through Expectancy

Spirit Reclining
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


The old fat couple lived in a tiny house
with their fat white cat who caught no mouse
but ate and slept throughout its years.

The old fat couple smiled and sat.
She cooked. He read.
The old white cat stretched and purred.

The breezes stirred. The tiny house
breathed out its ribs and settled back.
Each covered chair and polished top

rejected dust. The shining appliances
clicked and whirred.
The wiring and pipes traveled and rattled.

The fairy tale was not complete.
The cat and the couple had more to eat.
They ate all spring. They ate all winter.

They watched for mail and they
watched for hunger. The shiny eye
of the shiny cat would slit and glitter;

it shone with dark till dark was stronger
and the old fat couple rocked and talked
and clapped and laughed.  And that was that.


she broods
in afternoon’s half light
on a long soft couch
the cat beneath her hand
the day untold
the long soft hours
filtering her inattention
to the way
all things compose
and rearrange
beyond her care;
she will not long
for anyone,
for anyone not there;
she is removed;
the last light
takes her in,
her white dress
glows a moment longer
in that light


(Rimas Dissolutas)

She stares toward soft window light
—shadowings adrift in the room;
the way the bare walls seem to glow;
the way silence clings like a sound;
a hypnotic feel to the air,

a white bowl becoming more white
deflecting the texture of gloom;
the way time can falter and slow;
a feeling that breaks all around—
a white cat asleep on a chair.

Whatever you wonder is right—
whatever you want to presume.
There’s nothing of this you must know;
whatever you think you’ve discerned
of forces that might define her.

It’s how she can hold back the night,
a lost look that she seems to own,
a trance that will not let her go,
the way time will not be returned
to the fathomless blank of her stare.


(After "Piranha Alley" by Ben Kaja) 
A basement window.
An alcove doorway.
The sallow green of city dusk.

Old writings on the door.
A dim light from the window.
Shadowy motion in the street.

Someone lives behind the door.
Someone stares up through the
basement window.

Something will happen here.
It is too soon.
Let us not tempt fate.

Footsteps on the sidewalk.
Then and now.
Never and not yet.

Sounds caution down to hear echoes.
There are none. Someone completes
their detour by turning the corner.


Down a long wet alley on a night of
shadows, following the blues of music
and elusive love, following the dim

path of light from late-night windows
where someone always stares down
through shifty curtains, wanting their

own love mended; down a wet alley
toward the other end of its depth and
darkness, wanting a shortcut through   

expectancy—whoever follows you
following like a ghost; a furtive wind
cuts through, stirring a few stray

leaves and ripples in the alley-puddles
where rain has ended; and now you
come out on the other side where a

lingering street turns in both directions,
and what you hurry to is restless for you
in all the late-night taverns.

(first pub. in Poetry Depth Quarterly, 2006)     



the night cat slinks
through the yellow moonlight
trailing its enormous shadow
night smudges its dark,
rustles its leaves,
muffles the sounds that follow
the white fence gleams
where the lane curves
the stars inspect the gravel
the late night warns
the sounds crunch
the slow moon loses its yellow
the hushed leaves listen
the cat returns
dragging its ragged shadow   



(After "The Cat That Walked by Himself",
an illustration by Rudyard Kipling)

this mild
made of winter
this focal cat
beginning the dream
of its ninth and final life
this moseying forth
this going toward
a tall white distance
with all space narrowed
a leaning dance of trees
no shadow
but that of light
all color drained of it
such a delusion
this focal cat
so nonchalant
its final path pulled thin
in simple black and white


and there is the white moon hanging
and a dark cat passing under,
prissy-footed in a stubble-field,
and a slow-motioned dog is barking,
far away it seems,
and the moon is sharp and full
and the cat is slowly stepping
through the shadows
and has almost reached the end now
and is just an abstract motion
in the field’s absorption
and the dog has hushed
and the moon has not quite paled
and the soft blue tone of morning
is just beginning
and a slight cold breeze
gets through as a crow takes
its dark silhouette across the window
and a long block away, across the field,
a jogger runs, tiny as a toy, and the cars
flow by him with their headlights on
and the spell is breaking.


Today's LittleNip:


Each night the car pulls up and stops
just ahead of her—blocking her way

—the man sneers
then revs past her with a dark laugh . . .


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's sumptuous fare! Our new Seed of the Week is Great Escape; send your poems, photos, and artwork on this (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com (no deadline on SOWs). 

Also note that, like most weeks in NorCal poetry, this is a busy one, with readings and with two workshops of note: Thursday's Cal. Lawyers for the Arts workshop on copyrights,  and Saturday's annual Sac. Poetry Center Conference. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for details.



Joyce Odam (left) with Allegra Silberstein
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA