Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Dreaming I could Swim

Big Tree, 8th Street & Eggplant Alley, Sacramento
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(After "Sleeping Peasants" by Pablo Picasso
and "A Valentine for Sherwood Anderson" by Gertrude Stein)

In straw light—in heavy summer—

the sleeping lovers do not notice
how the hot sky builds

with heat-lightning        thunder;
how even the white shed

behind them
shimmers in the hot light

as if
to disappear;

how the surrounding tones of yellow
keep growing more yellow

in the farness and the longness of this day;
how the sated lovers

keep sleeping the heavy sleep
of love—this poem the only intrusion.


(after “Heat” by Florine Stettheimer)

Mother Madness sits at the head chair in the red garden
and rules. Behind her the black trees wilt and the thick
air saddens. Her daughters languish around her in wicker
lounges and chairs. Day’s color drenches down and
turns to more red. A pillow slips to the ground from a
small round table where vased white flowers wilt. A red
scarf floats slowly by as if an omen. A forming sky-
shadow starts to appear. Mother Madness begins to
rise from her cloying chair. Her dark daughter turns
toward her with a muted word. Her three pink daughters
stretch like cats and stay asleep in the melting yard. The
trees contort in the swimming waves of heat. The ground
begins to dissolve into something dense and final. The
hot air promises no relief, but settles-in in humid clumps
upon the hour. Earth-gravity seems to slow—too heavy
to move. A black sky builds where a forming figure starts
to emerge. The dark daughter looks toward him beyond
her mother. The pink daughters dream pink dreams with
no foreboding. The mother huddles deeper into her dark
day-dress and makes a warning. The dark figure makes
a move toward the one dark daughter and the mother howls.


       I’ve gone the length of this day’s sorrow
               and I’ve come home to tell you
                      of the sameness of the journey.


                      I hear the birds crying now   
                               in a fierce delirium of telling—
                                           how do they know what to say?

    I listen to the heat distort the sounds
                 of this closing, heavy day.
                                It feels like a dying.


(Long Beach, 1939)

I am following the long stretch of shoreline;
the sun is going down; strips of seaweed
lie along the wet sand, left by low tide.

A few last seagulls circle in mauve twilight.
The sunbathers and swimmers have gone home.
I am on the darkening beach alone—

stumbling in heavy sand the slow mile back
to where I turn in—past the small rental cabins,
up the one small block—to 39 Mermaid Place.

I have been gone since just after breakfast.
My mother is home, scolding at the sand I track
all over the thin blue rug and the scarred linoleum.

After supper, I fall asleep on the floor,
curled up in front of the small gas heater—
too chilled to get warm.

One loud block away,
I can hear the surf—feel its power—
dream I can swim.

(first pub. in Poets' Forum Magazine, Spring 2000)


Note this craggy waterfall struggling down
the jutted rocks—the land broken—

the one tree barely alive

and the tufts of straggle-grass—
the flat white sky—

and the clumsy way we stumble
over this terrain

as we go
from one word to another

and your eyes are hot,
and mine are cold,

and we have left the even ground
for this—

this terrible moor,
something to get across—

admire even—for its significance,

this trickle of chance
for anything to survive until the rain.


There is a flicker in the heat,
mirage of water, or puddle under streetlight,
something upside down lives there. 
Once there was rain.

There is a moon—full and bright—
lighting the night. The moon is white.
Child, everything will be all right.

An insomniac feels the open window stare in.
Listens.     Reads.     Listens.     Reads.  
Turns page after page while the clock
turns hour after hour. 

There is a flicker
and a breeze.
The mirage shimmers.
The reflection stares upward
into the white shuddering moon.

Once there were tears
for the lone walker who dares the night.
Thoughts loosen, wander and darken,
match the echo of footsteps
that walk through the mirage
and ruin the world that is there.

I am the only one who cares about this.
I feel the old night go deeper.
I cannot sleep.
I know the mirage has gone still again.

The moon is still crossing the lonely sky.
The walker has gone home. 
Insomnia sleeps.
Somewhere it has rained,
but not here. I manufacture what I need.
I tell you. I tell you.



I touch you as I would that other ghost—
those absences.

I touch you in the light to feel your glow—
the heat of your image.

And still you refuse me substance, saying
your image is enough—

how only reflection is real—that you are
not my answer.

(After “Memory”, 1937, by Agnes Pelton)

Let’s take this apart, discover it,
wonder is for wonder:

A pure white vase over-
spills with rose petals, floating off.

The vase gleams from within
with contained light.

A new-born sea erupts from its base,
teeming with new realities.

The white vase becomes white heat
no longer able to contain form.

Was it always meant to spew roses?
Create stars? Why is it familiar?

Memory: white flare, white burst
of energy taking shape,
fragile with illusion . . .

Memory: Needing to find you
in the swarm of thought, even now
able to define me.

Memory: Contrived image now,
talking on its own memory. . .


Today's LittleNip:


It is harsh for a word
to be so brutal.

Honesty is best, says
the word.

—Medusa, with our thanks to Joyce Odam for a fine start to this Tuesday, including the photos of the lovely old tree at 8th St. and Eggplant Alley, and a note that we have a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page, Poeming Pigeons at SPC by Michelle Kunert.

Note also that our new Seed of the Week is The Art of Swimming. Send your poems/photos/artwork about same to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWS.