Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pages of White Birds

—Poems and Zentangles by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


I thought it was the night, but it was only
the very late way
words stood in the way of clarity.

So much went by me that I should have
caught: the innuendo, the smirk,
the sarcastic line I laughed at.

I’m not cut out for complexity.
Everyone went home drunk.
I teetered at the door

of maudlin goodnights,
vowing love to everyone,
and meaning it for awhile.

Of course I love them—
and myself—
my tipsy self, grown sober

in the late night mirrors
that do not look back at me.
I hope the celebration was enough

to last till the next reunion
of all who spend their needs on each other,
each with a deeper loneliness.



The large-bodied women are in love with the tiny man.
See how they herd him wherever his impulse takes him.
They make a huge cluster of protection,
leaning into him like psychic listeners.
See how they smother him with their tenderness,
wounding him in amongst them
till he becomes their pressed flower.

All the while they touch and touch him
with their soothing fingers,
telling him not to weep, that there is no answer.
When he is tired, they bathe him in deep communal water
then beg him with lotioned hands to shine for them.
All night he shines, dreaming,
the women like warm blankets wrapping around him.

(first pub. in Eliot In Celebration: An anthology of Contemporary Poetry
on the Centennial of His Birth, 1988)


they wear veils
they wear chains on their ankles
they wear black fingernail polish

they have painted scars on their
foreheads and cheeks
they have drawn blue tears
under their eyes

now they are dancing
together and apart
moving slow
bending and winding themselves unattractively
then reaching upwards and swaying
their wide sleeves falling
about their faces

(first pub. in Celebration, May, 1991)


The dark horse whirls. The lovers cling.
     Forever is a game they play.
          The other horses blur in tune.
               The children seem to disappear.
                    The lovers grow too old to care—            
                         they’re drawn too quick to be aware
                            of all but holding on to time—         
                             in rhythmic pull the horses lift           
`                           and try to win the fastened race.     
                         The platform strains against itself.       
                    The colors fade to black and white.
             The time is day. The time is night.
          The horses creak, and rear, and bring
     the circles back to where they were.                
The dark horse whirls. The lovers cling.


After “Vowels” by John Ashbury

What was this thing that happened before I looked?

The edge was crumbling, even the shadows recoiled,
even the mirrors, too, from my face.
The alphabet squirmed outside of language.
It was low-tide.
The shoreline withdrew. I was on an island.
I could not bear the sound of the echo.
Glances confirmed the fragments of dissolving light.

Darkness was next, and a gasp. Horses galloped by.


THE BLUE DESIRE                                                                   
After Blue Mountain by Wassily Kandinsky

Something about a mountain when it’s there,
horizon-filled—beyond eye-reach—wider
than arm-reach, and from the distance,
higher than your head—and blue.

That is what compels you—
from afar—and from a time
beyond the now of this perspective—
knowing this is your mountain to assess.

First, the distance—growing near,
and feeling nearer as you contemplate
this feat of your imagination
that bedevils you with dare.

Perhaps if you could tame a horse . . . . .
and you note those climbers, half in shadow
near the rim—their frantic horses rearing—
how valiantly they fuse together in the blue desire.


So vague, with only twilights now—no grand
announcement—no noticed entrance hanging
to an edge which is growing cold with shadow.
Bent years are turning our corners. How we envy
them, laughter behind us, weeping ahead—or is
that so? Is it weeping behind, and laughter ahead?
I don’t know.


(A Steinism)

Let the blue begin, Maestro of the blue fugue. I feel you
shudder the blue notes into silence. Let me hear the blue
fugue follow the flow of curtain that flutters its hem at
the stage where the lights release the shadows to dance
around the legs of the chairs where the sad musicians tap
their feet,—not in unison, but in private throe,—just as
you, Maestro, raising your blue baton over the air to
memorize the grief and weep onto all your music which
flutters to the floor in pages of white birds that escape
now in their own discord.


pale down into haunted dark.
mark its edge.

press soft with your finger and thumb.
feel it resist.

grope past this flaw.
repair it with a shatter.

arranged and true,
like a bone.

you are a mender.
feel the power.

all breakage comes to you,
great hand and chance-giver.

all who are lost return their terror,
thin and difficult to measure.

do not be sad—all mockery is eager.
you are the one who will never.

yes, you are the one
who will never, never, never.

(first pub. in Celebration, May 1987)


Today’s LittleNip:


How does that grief go?
The drums beat sadly, softly.

Whose lies are believed?
One shadow steals another.

What is surrender?
The wind blows. The flowers bend.


Our thanks to nonagenarian Poet Queen Joyce Odam for the tasty soufflé of poems and photos that she has whipped up for us this morning! For more about Gertrude Stein and steinisms, go to ellensplace.net/gstein6.html/. For more about mondos, see www.poetrymagnumopus.com/index.php?/topic/1139-katuata-mondo-sedoka/.

Our new Seed of the Week is Nesting: birds or newlyweds or that guy with the gleam in his eye—’tis the season for nesting. Send your poems, artwork, photos on this (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWS—it’s never too late to rummage around in Calliope’s Closet at this top of this page for past SOWs to stir up your own soufflé!