Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Latest Despair of the Heart

—Poems and Drawings by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


He takes the red night apart, bird by
bird and branch by branch of the black tree.

I have seen him do it.
He aims his eyes to what he wants

and goes ‘click’ with his mind
and spares the world another tragedy.

Another day will come, safe as a song.
She asks him, “How many sorrows
does it take to make a love?”
“None,” he smiles . . . “there is

no sorrow deep enough.” He turns
his camera toward the mirror of her eyes.

“Smile,” he says. She smiles;
and that is love enough for one of them.

(first pub. in The Listening Eye, 2000)


(After “Portrait of Hans Massmann, 1909”
by Egon Schiele)

On the edge of his memory.
In sunlight.
His lowered eyes.
His mind.
His intention.
He has no intention.
He is only brooding.
In his brooding chair.
He poses for himself.
Where did she go?
Does she exist?
Why is he alone?


She has silver toenails.
Her mood is green.
She wears a borrowed dress.

She balances a bottle
full of green water on her head.
She does a dance of herself.

In this poem-light
he looks at her
and becomes a poet to her charm.

She laughs and pours imaginary wine
into his upheld glass.

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1997)



And this too is a death:
the latest despair of the heart.

     Once the whisper of morning
     was a light that moved over us
     like a tongue of memoried flame.

Time of love past and love to be,
time of in-between the
disaster and the ecstasy,
let me tell you
of inevitable desperations:

     Love was a child once,
     innocent of failure,
     and with an inquisitiveness
     born of danger—
     hands touching and eyes seeing.

And this is the final irony:
love comes with weary claws
to stroke our faces.

     We accept the crumb of tenderness,
     for love is the bitten animal,
     hungry nonetheless.

And finally after we have seen
all the disguises
and applauded all the performances
we admire love for the old fraud it is
and accept this as its truthfulness.

                *          *          *

And there is the young girl
standing before the tree and holding
a branch down with her fruited hand
and looking toward the young man
who smiles behind the camera.

(first pub. in Second Coming, 1972) 


Your hands reach out.
The camera catches you
dying of love.

You stay that way
in the unheld
gesture of surprise.

You laugh
at the bitter cheese
of the picture taker.

It is no good
to find eyes locked to eyes
for such a long grieving.



See how pretty my baby?
Look, Mister Camera,
see my little doll?

Do not look at me,
my tired smile,
my wrinkled face,
my fat body…

look at
my child,
my youngest beauty.

She is not heavy in
my arms, love knows!
She will grow up to be
as pretty as I
used to be.

(first pub. in Imprints Quarterly, l971)

(After photograph by Michael Nye in
What Have You Lost? by Naomi Shihab Nye)
Here runs the child—
a blur in his notion of the world,

too quick for camera
in his catching of the moment,

even his eyes a blur
as he runs past—

one foot on ground,
one foot in air.

Behind him, the still world
catches back a skip,

makes room for him,
lets him through—a blur.

(first pub. in The Aurorean, 2007)


what he draws with light
is left upon the air
as briefly
as stillness caught
between the swiftest beat
of wings

perhaps the way
a moth prepares itself
for candle flare
or hummingbird
between one flower
to the next

what he draws with light
is but a scribble
to the canvas dark
a flourish of design
as brief as inspiration
caught mid-flight

there can be no suspicion here
of fraud
his moving hand permits his art
to serve him once again
with brief magnificence

oh where is time
that reconstructs itself
and lets a moment pass
before it’s felt

he draws with light
and laughs to see it hang
before the camera eye
which captures it at once
to save the work
he had no time to sign

(first pub. in Ekphrasis, 1997-1998)


Today’s LittleNip:


you thought to brave the sea
when you went toward
the great rock
growing out of it
beyond a cove in the distance
where force converged with force
and caught you—wave and undertow
in the exact moment you would arrive
with your camera-eye and innocence
off guard—
to see the other side of things . . .

a breaker found you first
you were surprised . . .
you almost drowned . . .

but here you are
to tell


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for today's fine poems and her Women's Faces' Continual-Line Drawings, and also noting that this week's Seed of the Week is Abandoned. (No, we're not abandoning it—the theme is "Abandoned".) Send your poems, photos and artwork on that theme (or any other!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.