Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Ornamental Rages

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


The ornamental rages are hiding in our lives.
We give them names like love and duty.
We hang our pictures straight upon them;
the Indian praying toward the sky as if
there were no ceiling . . . the wolf that howls
toward the cobweb swaying in the corner.

Our crooked years are forever falling,
lacking nails.
Our strings are never wide enough to guard the halls
which we creep down
in search of substance for our shadows.

The other day the mailbox blew apart
and in it all our letters,
forever dated to our search for meaning.
I need to tell you this before it rains, before
the streaming mirrors disappear with all our faces.

(first pub. in Kindred Spirit, 1988-89)



Remember when love was the dream
that clung to our sweet morning
like Sunday-sleep,
a nether-state of languor
that held us long and loving,
and we struggled not to waken…

Remember how sunlight
and mockingbirds
held us breathless
in such pure listening
that Time was a sad white face
ticking ruefully
against our exquisite rhythm

Remember the beauty we found
in each other
(we would not mirror
the world’s disillusion)
we could not believe
the serpent-lies
of sad-eyed lovers who said
we could not create an Eden…

Remember the lyric of rain
and the humming winds
that we heard urging, Feel.  Feel.
And our wholes selves
answered, We do.  We do.
And we were a song entire.

Remember the candle we burned
for a fervent symbol,
the wick a vein for the fire
that melted the slow wax
down the bottle
that once held the white wine
of our tasting…

Remember how long
the season of lilacs
and how much of springtime
is spent in that first finding.
O we were foolish
to think love a constant season.
When did it happen
that loss of petals
did not matter?


I would love you
but love is not enough.
Love is a pain to memorize,
a long guilt to remember,
no matter who declares it.

Love is not what you want it to be.
It is not a perfection.
It grows lonesome
and cruel.
It is always half-child.

I would love you,
but we are the wrong two.
We are from the wrong arrogance
and pride.
We could never be completed in time.

I would love you anyway,
but you would leave me
even if you stayed;
and I would leave you
at every disillusion and every regret.

I would love you,
but we are dark inside—
two lights gone out as if they were candles,
the soft-scented smoke of effort
fading out like a spent breath,

and that is all of us . . .
this sigh . . . this drifting silence . . .



She lit a candle—watched its flame       
toy with the shadows that it made.        
The air sucked in.  Almost afraid—      
she sprinkled salt and wrote her name—
a superstitious game she played.            

The candle flickered.  She erased           
the salt and wrote the name of one         
who did not love her; then she placed    
the candle where the wax would run      
into the name her finger traced.              

The candle flared, burning her hand      
that dared not risk one favor more         
of sprinkled salt—this either/or             
of her demand.  In reprimand,               
she swept the salt onto the floor.     


After Cover Picture: Erica Jong, At the Edge of the Body

A candle floating on the river in a small boat—
a child’s boat—or the soul of a dreamer—

an unwavering candle, taking up the whole boat,
while the watcher from the shore watches the candle.

Or no one is watching. Who put it there? The sun is
lowering—is changing the look of the sky, which also

is watching the burning white candle in the boat on the
small river—small enough to be a pond. And maybe

the child has just been called away by a worried voice—
a match-playing child who stole the match—who stole

the candle for the makeshift boat that floats with its
burning passenger on the little sun-drenched river.

After Shawn Colvin/A Few Small Repairs (CD Cover Art)
You strike a small flame from the red horizon
—hold the matchstick to your doubled eye,
speak of dusk—the slow receding sky
stealing all the light that love relies on.

You say that love is not a promise broken.
The match flame flickers, but does not burn down.
You say this proves the truth that you have spoken
—truth not even tears, or rain, can drown.

The land and sky connect. Your eyes burn red.
The match flares up. Your face absorbs the light.
What will you do with power made of fire?

You speak of Faith—Fire as an awesome thread
—a metaphor for what can re-ignite.
You say all love is made of such desire.



touching your face
weeping for you
her eyes old
her body afloat
in the shadows
her white neckline
melting away from you
her mouth with its words

your face flickers
you glow in the lateness
flesh like melted wax
your hands lost
in their strangeness
reaching for
the love you are promised

why is there no music
entered into this silence
welling between you
needing filled

why is there no hypnosis
releasing you
bringing you into focus

she is bending her face down
her lit hair
is falling into your hands
which have lifted
as if to fill with tears

(first pub. in Paisley Moon, 1991)


feeling black about certain things
(though not as big as wars,
or famine, or something
as small as bee stings)
but more like the broken heart
love has
or a bad hair day
or any irksome
that ruins a day,
And I,
truly morbid now,
am building to
a mood
for dark music,
low lights,
and doors closed
against everything
when all I can think of (grateful
for the comic relief it seems)
is down to cobwebby shadows,
strong black coffee
and black jelly beans.


Today’s LittleNip:


Sad music filled night’s rain-charged air
and faded there—
blue sound
that seemed to make the candled-brim
of light go dim
around our mood

And then it rained.
The light
flared once and sputtered out. We wept
awhile. Then slept.
All night.


Speaking of local journals (as we were yesterday), convergence editor Cynthia Linville announces that the new issue is available at www.convergence-journal.com/fall15

Don’t forget that the dedication of the new Poet Laureate Park will take place tomorrow (Weds.) from 4:30-6:30pm at the South Natomas Community Center, 2921 Truxel Rd., Sac. See the green box at the left of this column for details.

Our new Seed of the Week is Wolf at the Door. Send your poems, artwork and photos on this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.

And also note that Medusa’s Kitchen has a new Facebook album: Recent Readings by Katy Brown. Check it out—Katy has been busy lately!