Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Wiser Than Death

—Poems and Zentangles by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Bodies of cats line the winter streets. I counted
three this morning. Their death spread over the
city. My regret exaggerated them. I could not
shake their presence. I did not want to look at
gutters—brief flecks of orange, shapeless gray—
somewhere, their mourners, oblivious yet.

Tonight on the news I hear of pileups in the fog—
black ice, black snow, three dead. I turn my
attention to randomness, grow vague and
distracted, let detail slip by me with no meaning,
give up the symbolism for awhile, write this poem
as if it means something I do not want it to mean.



on the eighth life
the black cat lived
albeit with a limp
and a broken miaow

but he had yellow eyes
that slit the dark
and electric fur
to sting the stroker’s hand

he reached the eighth
life of his owner’s mind
to roam beyond the
adolescent now

wiser than death
superior to caution
courting more peril than before
testing his own ninth evolution

(first pub. in Of Cats Mini-Chap, 2002)



The white cat in the alley is new again—
it has lived there ever since
and never mind when.

It was then
and it possessed distance and time
that was yours

and mine—
we lived it together
and apart.


Something guarded the history
as if it was love.
And it was.

And it was a strong platonic sisterhood
of those who knew—
who owned white cats and alleys.

All this is true—the alley—the cat—
the blue coincidence—indicative,
without the correlation of a clue.

The white cat remembers us still—
symbolizing time,
guarding both ends of the alley.

That we are old now is relevant
and the white cat is old, too,
but deathless.

We share
its nine lives.
The white cat simply stares at us and purrs. 


Another death to fret about. This time
a cat—a gray one—
curled strangely, off to the left

on an entrance-curve of freeway
that compelled my glance
each time I passed—

going home
to no cat—
no more cats for me.

A week of this—still there
in vague and slow disintegration
making a dull flat tone of heaviness.

Today the cat was gone.
I was relieved—only a dark blue stain
marked where its death had lain. 

(first pub. in Of Cats Mini-chap, 2002)


HER WILDERNESS                                      

Our silver cat sits looking for her mouse,
patiently stares toward the gleaming field,
until she turns to patient silhouette.

The closing darkness, hiding what it owns,
holds itself real still: no breath of wind.
No twitch of fur.  No luck.  No sign of mouse.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, Winter 1997/1998)


A wood fire in the
        old black stove,
a saucer of milk for the
            old black cat.
        lapping at the walls.     
(first pub. in Of Cats Mini-chap, 2002)


Some nights I can still feel the soft pounce
on my bed . . . as when the old cat
would wait for me to finally turn in.

(first pub. in Of Cats Mini-chap, 2002) 


The point of this is pointlessness,
I keep trying to explain.
You, as vague as usual,
stare away in your other direction.

Take words, I say, throwing you a few
in broken sentences.
But you, still in love with cruelty,
turn up the volume of your deafness.

Let the cat in, I suggest,
let the cat out,
let it in,
let it out. Damn cat.

You, of course,
have no use for cats
though cats love you
with all their eyes and sidle up to you.

I am bereft, I plead.
Take this silence,
so tiresome,
I don’t know how to say it.

You open a page of light,
read it
with your lips,
and make a revision.

I drag you along in my conversation,
I need your provocation,
I need the way you look at me—
your un-reach-a-bil-ity.

You turn away from the
immaculate mirror of your face,
open the door
and let the cat out.


Today’s LittleNip:

new home.
female cat
white paws
blue-green eyes.
Seven years old.

(first pub. in Christian Science Monitor, 1996
Of Cats Mini-Chap, 2002)


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine poems and pix today, elaborating on the Seed of the Week: When Cats Disappear. Our new SOW is Parades, celebrating Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras. Don’t be afraid to think metaphorically, as I said yesterday, like the duck family in the green box at the right, or think about other things/problems/events (fun or otherwise) that come along, one after the other. Send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other) subject—including Valentine’s Day if you’re not in a parade kind of mood—to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs.

Many thanks also to those kind folk who wished me happy birthday on Saturday. Threescore and ten. Wow. Unfortunately, Medusa is the only Gorgon who is mortal, so I’m always on the lookout for Perseus…


For more about “Found Poems” go to www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/poetic-form-found-poem/.