Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fugues of Effort, Brambles of Desire

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


She carries
a glass of water
on a balancing-stick
and moves
very slowly across the room
which is
as wide as the
slow expanse of day
and the shimmery passage of
the sunlight.
The water glass
is made of heavy crystal
with a small, translucent fish
captured in it.
She is becoming a fugue of effort
but she must not show
her weariness or limitation.
The fish has a patient eye
and a dark speck of heart
which can be seen
through its tiny body
and she knows
she must not let
the water move
or the fish will die.
The fish watches her
with its great pity
and balances, with itself, the
careful motion of her walking.

first pub. in CQ (Cal. State Poetry Quarterly),
1996 (the “Odam” issue)


Stop and go. Anther grind of traffic. And there is the open
sky. Up high, a wavering black strand of geese. Almost a
reward for the finished errand I tried to avoid—all I can do
to drive and not keep looking through the windshield at the
geese—so high I can not hear—their passage slow enough
for my timed glances. I feel redeemed that the mission of
my errand has put me in the here-and-now of this very
moment the geese pass overhead and fill me with such a
deep and reverent joy—a blessing I had not counted on—
and did not know I needed.



In a puddle of water—the sky—
clouds confined to this small rain lake,

the brief flight of gulls
that do not stir the surface,

that do not seem displaced or strange
though they fly upside down;

and vertigo is not the point of this—
that such a shifting vastness

can be caught—fragmentary
and deep—if one looks down to see—

and does not break
the image with their own reflected feet.

(first appeared in slightly revised form in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1996)


“The row of chairs, ingenious passage above the
flooded streets in Paris, 1924” —Photo by Henry Manuel

The long line of people step from one rickety chair
to another—(Jack be nimble)—a bit of humor from
some to bolster the others—the drawn-out line of
chairs extending the long slow reach across the
flooding water—(Jack be quick)—just the perfect
solution—(Jack jump over the candlestick).



Through a bramble of desire
the life enters and absorbs
the shape and color of the need.

The distance through, lengthens.
Space separates and closes.
The air breathes through.

There is more to be. The question forms.
The bramble feels the passage of the other.
Force against force.

There is a parting as something yields
and something resists. From the outside,
all is the same and feels no effect from

this common tableau . . .
where a bramble of desire enters
and absorbs the shape and color of the need.      


After Polish Road by Jerzy Malicki

this yellow path through green woods
these pure surroundings not yet entered

the going
the arriving

the sky continuing
the world turning its timeless measuring

the way in

the way through

the way out

the entering and closing after, seamless

After Temple Garden, 1920 by Paul Klee

I find me in some Temple Garden made of
memory’s own shadow. I am not my own.
I know these paths and turnings in this time
that is long ago—triptych panels that lead

into deeper panels—voices that fade as I listen.
The orange light is pouring through the late-
ness of the day. How long have I been here?
Memory is only shadow now. Voices ring

with prayer, with lament. The orange light
burns. Footsteps fade into doorways and
passageways. The hour throbs. I have no
voice. My eyes search and my old heart aches.



(1) why number
these passages of thought
as if to dissect words
from themselves,
as if to portion them
into comprehensibilities . . .

(2) like rooms of the mind
entered and left,
roamed for their strangeness,
for the differences of their moods,
for the sharp pungencies of memories,
for the doors between images
that open and open like inspiration . . .

(3) why number these stanzas
of words
that fumble with effort
or flow into eloquence,
like silken birds
that leave their cages
and brighten the containment
of your mind-house

(4) why number such meanings
of little speeches
so they can return, in sequence,
grief after grief
since they are repetitions
looking for their own beginnings?

(5) will they remember themselves?
the shadows
have hardened into reality,
the cages
ring with lost singing.

(6) you are your own mirror
placed on every wall
reflecting and reflecting
your effort to know yourself
as you will always do
for you are never completed

(first pub. in Poets’ Guild, 1997)


These poems wrapped in tissue paper and folded
away, these faces in your mirror, these arrangements
of light, the swift passage through the room of some
cold shadow, touching you as it passes.

Whose power is it that interferes with your direction
and is it loud or mute and why must you answer any
of these questions?

No one waits for answers, least of all an explanation
one can understand or put in a saving box. The poem
is at home in its misery.

The mirror is empty; the shadow does not belong
here, and the curious will leave on cue. Come here
and help me gather up these breakings, the wrinkled
balloons and faded confetti, the particular soft in-
sinuations that rehearse themselves to death.


Our heartfelt thanks to SnakePal and Master Chef Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix, riffing on our current Seed of the Week: Passages. Our new SOW is This Murky Pond, inspired by the upcoming cleaning of McKinley Park pond in Sacramento. Who knows what lurks there? Or in your own “pond”, for that matter! Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for more than you can shake a pencil at! (At which you can shake a pencil…)

Today’s LittleNip(s):

I keep sailing on in this middle passage. I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full.

—Arthur Ashe


We have to be able to grow up. Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life. They are what we have been through and who we want to be.

—Lauren Hutton



 Pond Turtles, McKinley Park
—Anonymous Photo

Celebrate poetry by writing about our wildlife 
sisters and brothers! Then head over to Davis tonight to hear 
Yuyutsu Sharma and Allegra Silberstein read at the 
Universalist Church of Davis, 7:30pm. Scroll down to 
the blue box (under the green box at the right) 
for info about this and other upcoming 
readings in our area—and note that other readings 
may be added at the last minute.

For info about wildlife rescue efforts while
the McKinley pond is being cleaned (want to adopt a turtle?), 
go to

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.