Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Left Alone With Words

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


I am in fine voice today.
No vanity.
No need to sing.

My thoughts are under water.
I am swimming in a spiral.

Today I am part of my oneness.
What else am I made of—
What part truer than the other?


(after a drawing by Angela Mark
Red Owl Magazine, XXIII)

element of water
element of dream

of movement

bubbles of light
bubbles of air

of being

element of spiral
nothing at either end

only the upward

holding your breath

(after a Wayne Hogan drawing)

a nude figure swimming in the black sea water of sleep,
a white glow moving in a slow direction, unhurried
and shimmering with dream distortion, afraid or not

it’s hard to see from this dimension, treading the black
and drifting sky so far above—our own lost moon 
shimmering there—beside him—in that glassy water



This dimensionless depth—this brimming pond—
a fringe of light encroaching, perhaps squeezing in.
What does she look for in this black water—her
own reflection?  She has become a silhouette. 
Maybe night redeems her.
                                   She steps in.  It is shallow.
She bends to splash herself, feel the slow ripples
begin.  The water pulls down, draws her into her
reflection.  She has been told she will meet herself
in the future.  Is this where it begins—this
small black lake of her own weeping?

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1998)


It was only a glimpse, a high window,
a low light on
and her shadow passing back and forth.
It was only a passer-by
hunching in the rain without a destination,
It was only a hallway outside a room
in which the occupant was never known
by any but the one with the key.
The shadow of the woman
stopped her pacing
and looked out at the rain.
Cars drove back and forth
catching the rain in their headlights
and splashing it with their wheels.
The hallway had no drama to reveal.
Shadows played on the carpet from
the window light at the edge of the hall.
Under the hallway doors lights were on or off.
Same thing with the transoms. Nothing much
going on around there, only dreaming and tall tales.

(after "The Swimming Hole" by Thomas Eakins)

Six of them, in stillness and in motion,
in and out of the swimming hole,
the slow, slow day
perfect around them, time that is gone.

They are timeless. They are unaware
of this. They think of life as theirs,
no encumbrance, no place to fail, or die.
They yield themselves to the pleasure

of each other’s sameness, their nudity,
their separateness within
this closing hour. This is the only way
they can escape the rest of their lives :

This is a still of their existence—silent as
memory’s limitation, even the water-ripples
are silent around them, the sunlight
as it enters the green shadows.



The way everything changes color
when you look at it again, like shades
of turning light on the second day of spring,

like old moods gone crazy, becoming
new things.  A boy holds a colored scarf
in his mind.   It flickers orange, then blue.

His small dog dances on hind legs.
The rain patters around them and bounces off
his green umbrella.

Under his feet the small lake forms
and invites him to splash.  His shiny yellow boots
stand upside down in the water,

and he is happy.  A mauve shadow
passes over and becomes a menace.
The boy is stuck in his puddle

and the small dog is trying to beg.
The boy holds a purple world in his hands
and looks for an opening in it.

His face is turned away to his new divining.
Somehow the day contains all this
on a single page; it flutters loose     then turns into

a small paper boat that drifts away…
like the wish… like the dream… 
like the thing come true in the small boy’s wish.


Shall I do
the trite thing,
the bright thing,
the right thing?
Shall I rhyme
with myself forever
or chime with the wrong sound
that never wanted me?
How shall I love
this or any other?
I am only the lonely lonely
I am only the echo echoed thin.
I am in
the echo.
I am thin-
ning out.
I am the great out of the in.
I was never this thin.
I am haunt of Grandfather’s violin,
of Grandmother’s deaf-seeing,
her eye as music . . .
ah, the lake, the bank, the deer . . .
the loss as butterfly.
I am melted butter;
see me fly.
I am melted butter.
Mother melted away with me.
She gave me all these words to play with
when left alone with words.
I love them.
I play I play I play the words she gave me,
rub them into poetry,
mail them,
sail them like awful airplanes into dark childhood skies,
freeze my eye upon their vanishing.


Today's LittleNip:


You in your caves of light
and dark, swimming under-
water, holding your breath . . .

How deeply you entered
the breathing-holes of the sea
and, time-deprived, swam back . . .


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's fine poems and pix, and a note that our new Seed of the Week is Exploding Paint Cans. (Yes, you read that right.) See what you can do with this surprising topic and send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other subject) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.