Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Here in a Rag of Light

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Shadow walks beside me under a white
umbrella in a white rain. It is twilight.

Headlights are blurring on.
Shadow is humming in my ear

—a song about love. White tears
are streaming down his face.

Soon we are at a white doorway.
Shadow kisses me under the white umbrella.

I say goodnight. But now, Shadow hides
in the white curtain of my bedroom.

The window is open to the moonlight,
though it is raining.

Troubadours are singing under the balcony
—a song about love.

I will not admit shadow into my love,
though his silence begs to be admitted.

He keeps rippling the curtain,
scattering the rain.  I ignore him.
Soon, Shadow sends me
a crumpled, lovesick letter.

I save the stamp—refuse to answer.


She is in the white trance of sleep.
All color is drained from her dream.

She holds a death mask in her hand
as if it will guard her absence.

She lies upon a dark mirror.
She must duplicate herself.

Her shadow resists.
Her eyes do not flicker.

She does not feel the room go cold.
The mask takes on a new expression.

Her shadow leaves her body.
Her eyes refuse to open.

She must go through the glare to return.
She is in the white trance of sleep.



Year after year I anthologize you, loose pages
full of smears where conversations failed,

whole pages of complicated silences,
paragraphs of lyric tears—ah—

such a book as you have become . . .

compiled of your own complexities,
your dark symbolism, your comic surprises.

It is not fair that you still argue the old points—
refuse to surrender the grievances between us….


the quick or gentle swerve,
debris all around,
no clear path across
grieving and remonstrance,
how it all licks together in a sob—
that cry—oh, that cry
that resonates.


So what will grief do
but cry—inwardly and long—
for whatever grief can’t forgive.


Expound. Expound on this—
as if this can
be fixed.


A mockingbird is still singing—
in the backward tree—
How can this be . . . ?


Broken ghazals come from wild-winds of anger,
come from sad shards of wild-wind laughter.

Here they are short, here they are long,
and here, they are even shorter, and here, even longer.

Broken ghazals are muses without muse,
are everything of a particular say that you must refuse.

Muses of mercy are never where you need them—
they are never where you need them.

Broken ghazals are left over from long speeches.
The protocol is to never interrupt or fall asleep during.

Many of them even mention necessary enjambments,
persuasive and unnoticed at first, until

you find them in the next continuing and laden couplet,
squeezed together and space-filling with poetic fervor.

Some can ramble on forever, on forever, on forever.
Some weary of ghazaling and from the others, sever.

Whoever heard of such twining, such classical designing,
such architectures of words and wordy thought.

The mind is not to blame, all free association and willful meander,
never sincere enough in the long ones, and in the short ones.

Broken ghazals depend on mirrored self-association,
and ever into mirrors, hearken.


Once again I implore you to remember me,
I am the one who conjured you, and now you
abandon me to myself. 

You will not share the mirror or the comb
when I look at you from the glass.

How have you grown so vague?—wavering
at the back of my mind like something denied.

I still own your existence. Why do you refuse
mine? Our mother calls from the other room,
but I can’t make out which one. Why do you

smile at that?—suddenly here in a rag of light
that catches against an idle thought—just as if
there is only grief and love that binds us.



I touch you as I would that other ghost—
those absences.

I touch you in the light to feel your glow—
the heat of your image.

And still you refuse me substance, saying
your image is enough—

how only reflection is real—that you are
not my answer.


Oh, it is all lost now. We put it among the late news and the
only question. Its little song is silent. Its little intoxication is
sleeping beside the swizzle sticks with names of hotels on them,
and a silver-handled letter opener with nothing to do.

Oh, it is all gone—all gone forever, whatever it was we knew.
It was so happy that we loved it. I wonder what we did with it.
Did we leave it on a table; did we give it to a child; is it crying
in some wastebasket, or weeping goodbye from the journey of
some old garbage truck.

Oh, and does it matter? We are so careless and so full of
chocolate sympathy, bought for fifty cents and only weighing
three ounces. And all of our rolled-up money waits with a little
green for another party.



Mark you, my love, this hour—dwindling
and slow—full of old twilight,
heavy with summer.

How certain we’ve been of everything we know
which is only what we sieve
out of pour and clog,

how we waste what we want
out of squander. Note how easily
we’ve become our own shadows, lacking detail

and substance, assuming the thoughts
of darkness, how silence expands and surrounds
where we are to each other.

How easily we say what is true
and untrue, though we mean them differently.
We are through with our sadness.


Many thanks to Poeteer-Extraordinaire Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix! Our new Seed of the Week is "When the Muse Draws a Blank". Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.

The Tiger’s Eye Annual Chapbook Competition is now receiving submissions; deadline is August 31. Check it out at www.tigerseyejournal.com/. And don’t forget that this coming Friday is the last day to submit poetry, photos and artwork to WTF Editor frank andrick for the last-ever issue, due out in May; see rattlesnakepress.com/wtf.html for details.

Speak of frank andrick, he and his asst. editor, Rachel Leibrock, will read with Charles Halsted at The Other Voice in Davis this coming Friday, 7:30pm. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at this right of this column for details about this and other area readings.

Also happening at the end of this month (on April 30) is the Annual Sac. Poetry Center Conference. For details see www.facebook.com/sacpoetry.center/photos/gm.191253234595357/1054695431259034/?type=3&theater/.

Sacramento’s Laverne Frith had a poem featured on Verse Daily on April 2; see www.versedaily.org/2016/forgiveme.shtml/.

The Berkeley Poets’ Dinner/Contest took place on Saturday, April 2, and several area poets came away with prizes: Sharon Mahoney from Roseville took 3rd prize in the Humorous category; Joyce Odam took 2nd in Nature and Allegra Silberstein took 3rd in Nature; Pat Nichol took 3rd in People and Allegra Silberstein took 3rd HM in People; Pat Nichol took 3rd HM in Poet's Choice; Katy Brown took 1st in Theme (Illusions) and Joyce Odam took 3rd in Theme. Congratulations to all these poets for representing us so well. Berkeley Poets’ Dinner is an annual event; watch for details and guidelines to appear shortly before Christmas (deadline is in January).


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

infant’s mouth
—wide open in
raw howl, in debris,
in awareness of life—
of hunger,  of loss,  of fear—
everything shattered around him:
poor broken world, offering its last
living being—howling here in distress . . .



 April is National Poetry Month!