Tuesday, February 23, 2016

If Light Could Hold Substance

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Guiding line. Words of another.
Steal them. Finder’s keepers.

Do not judge my intention lest I
weep apart and never again be creative:

We are fragile. The strongest of us
need to get through our beginnings

without too much damage:—
birdsongs, nestlings, in symbolism.

Love turns on. Love turns off.
Fine tunings make music of words,

and lack of words, those stumblings,
like bird-flail in first flight.



It was August, in a white hospital room
somewhere in mysterious Canada. My mother
had been reading a magazine with a story

about some heroine whose name she gave me.
I had long piano fingers,
translucent in her examining hand.

I don’t know if I cried or just lay there,
waiting, my mother’s face like a blurry sun
floating above me, her eyes burning through.

Nurses came by and admired me. I was mired
in my mother’s hold. She would protect me.
We compared ourselves to each other:

Our brown eyes.
Our moles.
No piano in my future.

My first bed was a bureau drawer
as we traveled, and then traveled some more,
over all the lives time had given us.

But for then,
I was content in my mother’s arms—
swaddled like a cocoon,

squirming with wordless questions—
our eyes fastened to each other
for life—

my tiny fingers
closing and unclosing—my mouth
forming poems—the conversation of our souls.


It was the other darkness made of stone light.
The touch that was terrible.  The shy regret.
The very substance of evil, unrecognized.
Oh, who has harmed me with such
unforgiveness?  Am I lost?  A child forever?
How am I to return and unlock the gray door?
I follow a path of shallow water
and wake in a bed of shallow glass.  I can tell
no one, give no one, the weapon of my life.
Let the curtain hang in the window of despair.
Look in.  Look out.  I am on both sides.
Someone is reaching for me.
I own my life. I give it to no one.
Whoever wants it must pay a terrible price.
It is a silent life, a great stain on the heart.
My mind burrows, looks for
its beginning. . .  there I am! 
there I am!



This birth—this birth of death,
too young to live;

this interrupted thing—
this thought

this vague idea
of child,

unknown, unnamed, unloved—
unwanted yet,

that now
lets go.

If light could hold substance,

what would be born—
what holy thought
made of some deep memory,
unformed and shadowless…

would light
give sensation and
form to its creation—
show it a mirror for proof …

and if
it loved,
would it be
harmed by this…

and could it stay—
so timelessly created in the
flicker of a perfect connection
that gave life to itself…

this is not
the first reality that has been
so given that must luminate and
find the answer to its own existence.



Sleep now,

Your mother dies.
Feel how she drifts
away from you,

how she strokes the dark,
how she pulls your mind
into her oblivion,

how she is silent forever
and you are silent
with her,

how all your
is preserved

and your little life
is saved
in the universe

like a perfect thought
before it is uttered
as a word.

(first pub. in The Listening Eye, 1995) 


I have become the only drift here. The halo of light and
the halo of dark open to receive me. I fall—I lift. There
is no difference. I am all motion and all stillness. There
is no difference.

All my life has rounded to a simple moment; no news
has preceded me; no intuition of any relevance. I
borrow the source of eloquence for no thought, which
need not be spoken. My eyes are open and closed in a
flicker of seeing. Sensation is almost a memory.

But I am not yet born. I am at the starting point of history.
I am the realization of all awareness. I am the spiraling
sound at the tip of the echo. What has spoken me?

I take leaves for the roughness of celebration, that
finished season, that sad texture, and lay them on the
counters above couches, to admire them, to keep their
delicate shapes in the reality of things. Do I grieve for
them? Dare I know, or not know, this or any other fact
of honor, of indication, the notice of what is left as

Is it death I talk about—or its sad echo, life? Is it that
or any other narrative of silence that allows such
simplicity of unimportant dedication—that statement—
that little ghost all things have?

Take the trouble to die, Oh beautiful one of the enig-
matic mirrors, so alive to the beauty of life. Take your
belongings up in a simple collage and go into the
masterpiece of existence. There fling the thoughts and
intensities of emotion in a terrible rendition of scream-
silences. Rend the air with your passion. Unfold the cloth
of perplexity and share the answer.

Yesterday, the two doves minding the nest in

the hanging plant in your patio were tending
their fourth set of babies, and today we got to
see their tiny beaks bobbing to be fed;

and today, two pure white doves flew by,
just as we got to your place—so amazingly
bright in the morning sunshine.  I thought only
gulls or herons were that white;

and later, while crossing the causeway in our
hurry to get home, a lone heron flew for a long
time beside our car before vanishing like a
figment of illusion—

and then—there it was again: a lone white heron
flying alongside us—and a full white moon—all
re-crossing the day’s long path;

and I let myself imagine a white owl crossing the
moon just then—proclaiming itself a meaning to
ponder—like a sign….


Today’s LittleNip:

tight as a knot
/voice condemni
ic is a threat/
hatred comes fi
rst/small cramp
ed animal glare
s from its nest
cruel window/lo
oks in/small an
of/its heart/ a
threat of deadl
y beating/tight
as a knot/ as a
knot/ as a knot


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's fine poems and pix, and a note that the new Seed of the Week is A Day Late, A Dollar Short. Send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other!) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.