Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where is the Song . . .?

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


after the white dream—the sun
not yet filtering through the tree
outside the window, an unseen bird

brightly singing somewhere in
the morning—repeated now for quiet
emphasis on the bluish gray sky. 

And as I record this, the bird stops
singing as though arrested by
my thought—and a hum in the air

that may be the wind or the far
day-sounds beginning—is sounding,
like ocean against shore. I can smell

the salt—I can hear the sea gulls,
lonely as ever, circling and
crying—only above the traffic now.

And the clock says 6:00
though I know it is really 5:00. 
And the unseen bird is singing again.

Soon the sun will fill the dark leaves
of the tree with gold fluttering light
and I will close this poem.

(After Paris Street Scene by Fernand Lungren, 1882)

I promise not to use the word huddle when I speak of
these black umbrellas, imposing under rain, each taking up
up all the space it can, grouped and bobbing like so many
parachutes in the sea of air . . . the wet streets shining back
at them . . . the huddled people blurring in the rain . . .

funny how I
just now remember
those small blue
of perfume
that used to gleam
on dime store
exotic with reference:
in the evening—
farther away
than fantasies
of my
pubescent dreamings . . .

funny how I never imagined Paris in the rain—if so—
I would have imagined umbrellas of midnight blue,
reflecting blue-lit cobblestones, with melancholy
music floating all around—blurry and sad—and me,
in there somewhere, under a streaming blue umbrella.



My mother is dancing to the jukebox in a
small smoky bar, playing an old song that
she loves.  No one is dancing with her;
she is dancing—in place—to the light of
the jukebox, reading the names of the songs
and watching the record spin.  She has
used all her quarters for this.  She wants
to take the music with her when she goes.

        ~ ~ ~

My mother is dancing with the angels
in a small smoky bar.
One of them has shining white wings
that keep folding
and folding about her like love.  See?
she calls back to me
as she dances out the bright door into
the spinning moonlight.

(first pub.. in Coal City Review, 2007)   


There is a woods that keeps its wilderness,
a fallen tree-log stretched over a stream
where children like to cross.  Swift water
glints beneath.  Trees fleck golden in the air.

The tree-log settles above the rushing stream.
Nothing sinister here.
Gold trees dapple the air.
The sky is blue.  Leaves drift down.

There’s nothing sinister,
the daylight lasting from dawn to dusk
with sky that’s blue forever, leaves drifting down,
and nothing but play to do.

The brimming daylight lasts from dawn to dusk,
the children serious, centered, alone,
with nothing but play to do.

The brimming daylight lasts from dawn to dusk,
the children serious, centered, alone,
with nothing but play to do—
exploring time, and life, themselves—

serious children.  Centered.  Each alone
on the log-bridge, the gurgling water close beneath
as they enter time—and life—themselves,
the small, still woods keeping its wilderness.


(After The Reckless Sleeper by Rene Magritte)

Each night I put my sleep in a little box
with the dreams.
I am not involved.
I do not accept
responsibility for the madness I create.
Last night I dreamed I killed someone I loved.
That is not my dream,
I cried.
Someone else
is there, directing me.
Each night I press my symbols into a melting
sleep stone, soft as wax.
I show you
the bruises on my fingers.
Guilt is optional, I claim when I am accused.


When it came time to love I took its machine
apart and checked for lies, which were vague
with disillusionment, but I believed them.

The machine lay disassembled,
in methodical order : the heart at the center,
surrounded by all the other parts.

I studied them for accuracy :
the nerve-endings raw and the mind
not clearly instructed.

Still, I knew it was reliable :
if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,
came the old reminder.



I am unhappy.
Where are you now—
where are your words for me
to sing with my sad voice,
lowering and rising
with every breath
in a tragic hum.
My mirror knows.
I watch myself—
my throat that throbs
in rhythm
with my breathing.
How else can I endure
this feeling but to sing words
written by someone who knows.
Oh, where the lexicon to record
my mood that rises and lowers
with the passion of my heart—
my poor heart,
so confused.
Where is the song for this....?

(Our Song)

Let us go by terrible design through the old words.
Apologies and blame.
The pleading.
The heavy silences that are so full of pain.
Your shouting and my response.
Quarrels made of doubt.
The way we can still chisel out
the stubborn stone of each other.
All the trivialities and old crushed syllables
flung together and swept out the door.
The way the floor settles with our weight
of pacing or standing
for such long and ominous whiles
at suffocating windows.
Doors are no good for this.
They lack forgiveness.
Or the car we would grind into service
with a last gesture,
squealing down the driveway to the street.
And the fierce hot eyes
that glare with indignation
at the stiffened back of the other.
How often will we repeat this
before language dies into rusty silence?
And all for what—!
for that sacrificed word—Love?
I laugh at that
from my ultimate stance:
I will not dance to your old discordant music

We put the scratchy record back on the turntable
and once more set the needle in the groove,
and we who know this song by heart
play it over and over on our old Victrola.


Today’s LittleNip:

(for Anna—1929)

The scene is wide-dimensioned—a-tilt, the sidewalk
curving past the lawn back to the house, the house
shock-white—the top floor window open and the
record flying out of it to land at the feet of the child—

just that—no voices come down through the stark-
white memory—the house sharp-white against a pale
blue heaven—the monotonous song of the record bro-
ken, and the shocked house drawing back its tantrum.


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for this morning's buffet, and noting that our new Seed of the Week is Voyages. Send your poems, photos or artwork about this (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.