Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Imagining the Horses

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


The horses come to drink in the quiet hour—
all sounds hushed to fill the long moment with surprise
as the horses bend to the water, beautiful to watch,
but I am not there to watch them—I am only here
with my midnight pen and paper, imagining them:

I don’t know how many there are—or there are only
two.  I settle on two.  The horses are brown and glossy
in the light that I arrange for them.  I make the shadows
long, and the woods behind them, deep. 
I watch the water after they have finished drinking—

how undisturbed—and watch a white butterfly
insert itself upon the scene—becoming translucent
and pure with its brevity—and hold my breath
as it drifts into a white moment
that sparkles like the light on the water. 

But the butterfly has startled the horses—and they
snort and quiver, and work their way across the field
toward a fence . . .  I think I see a figure there . . .
but, no—I choose not to.  I will leave them alone now. 
I yawn and close my eyes.  I am out of paper.



thought i was
nice tho plain and not quite smart
agreeable enough
and docile
like a dog
or a cow
or a length of rope
gave me favors for goodness
abuses for my slow
to obey or agree or understand
said i was bought and paid for
with a laugh to show you were kidding—
didn’t wonder why i smiled
why i looked away

i’ve grown plainer
and disagreeable
and cunning in the heart
i’ve become unruly
like a cat when it’s hungry
or a horse with the
first rope around its neck
or a new deck of cards
i make up riddles to scare you
i read our identical fortunes every day
in the democratic newspaper
you’re just about ready to love me I think
even tho you can’t afford me—
just about ready to know me
even tho i keep on changing

(first pub. in Squeezebox, 1975)


Oh, what we mock, and how we stare.
Not for the shock, but for the dare.
Sadness,   Sadness,   everywhere.
Wasting love that doesn’t rhyme.
But how can love rhyme with time—
That Stubborn, Stubborn, Stubborn climb.

Oh, what we love, and what we lose.
Nothing like our dancing shoes.
Nothing,   Nothing left but blues.

Rain will fall upon our face,
All the pretty tears erase.
Now we know how bitter tastes.

Bitter comes with such a price.
Pity comes with good advice.
What if,   What if, uttered twice.



How do I fit a chair that is not there,
ride a surreal horse made of absent light,
greet the muse that pretends to be
a shadow—that old muse of fear?

How do I read the book of riddles
and not despair—those Neruda words,
questions with no answer,
that mental squirm?

What if what I think I see
is really there: the muse with body,
the chair in which I am sitting while I
watch myself sit there—is life a mirror?


Past the dark edges of night,
which is made of memory,
I go in my own darkness,
which is secret—
past the moon-lit gardenias
that glow,
and the night-blooming cereus,
which insinuates—
past all these shadows
that still reach out to me
as if they were human presences.

All I can see of this
is silenced
in a shift of memory
that wants to rhyme with itself,
wants to hear again its old laments—
long since forgotten,
or only silenced—
like leaf-fall,
or after-echo
that follows behind me
as I walk this dark place—
afraid, and unafraid.
It is only memory.

Why is no one there,
though I feel many presences?
Who am I looking for, yet dare not find,
as if finding might change me?
And how can I still envision gulls
out of this darkness—
black gulls
with black cries
that listen for my answer?
I answer and they disappear.

I write this for a way through
the immeasurable years
that seem like tides
that bring back such gulls
through the darkness—theirs and mine,
which still connect with hauntings.

Who might I have been other than this self
with so many questions,
answers hiding where they always hide—
useless answers that change
as the questions change.

I let myself drift back,
through this place that is so familiar,
as if I want to be there again—

Why is it filled
with such love—
such stubborn, lonely love—
someone I yearn for
who never was.


In ruffles,
and a wild red hat
and long fake pearls that hang
her eyes that widen toward
other eyes
with a hint of meaning;
her nervous hands
that hold . . .
what do they hold . . . ?
a twisted glove.
The window light is kind
behind her
where she leans.
Does she know
anyone in this room . . . ?
Her mouth is grim;
Her face is a sulk;
No one is seeking her out.
Is she the stranger in each of our lives
or is she . . . is she . . .  our lonely  mirror . . .



Strange how there were no tears shed
for the loved one now—
so newly dead.

A hard word to say, it’s true,
it’s true.  It’s not that we cannot
mourn for you—

but the life was hard,
the life you led—
held by such a stubborn thread.


Walking in fields through dusty evening toward the
summoning light which is swiftly failing, we slowly
dissolve into our shadows and the western sky is an
easy sadness for our quiet eyes.

The dream has fallen again among the hollows of swift
darkness—the other end of things is the goal. The field’s
diminishing edges press in. The house with no lights on
yet is becoming a huge dark shape behind us.

Only the tips of golden weeds still celebrate their place
in things and stubbornly cling to our clothing long after
we have returned to the beginning-point of our brief and
aimless stroll against the night.



The horses dream themselves again,
translucent in the light
of this electric night—
with sharpened memory of when
they filled my windowed sleep
that was—and was not—deep,
the way they did when I was ten.


The last horses
are caught up in the mountains
by the last stream.

They are looking at themselves
in the thin water.

Their hooves
shine in the sunlight
as do their backs
when they shift position.

They are becoming photographs…
they are becoming murals…
they are becoming thread
on vast embroidered panels…

Now they are fading out to shadows.
The trees are closing around them
like pieces of camouflage

until we no longer see the horses.


Today’s LittleNip:


How we wish for love
—even after loss.
As stubborn as fools.
Soon the sorrow?

Risk the old regrets?
Never mind the cost
—discover new tools.
Once more    we’ll love.


—Medusa, thanking Joyce Odam for her lovely creations today: her fine poems, of course, and her intriguing Zendala/Zentangle designs!

(Anonymous Photo)
 Celebrate poetry today by tackling our new 
Seed of the Week: Heat Wave
Not everything hates the heat; roses, for example, love it. 
Send poems, photos, artwork 
on this (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. 
No deadline on SOWs, though—click “Calliope’s Closet” 
in the links at the top of the blog for SOWS from the past. 

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.