PALE DANCERS IN PURPLE DARK
Oh yes, my weary dancers, the
spotlight prisons you upon the stage
and you are locked in light.
Though you perform with all your might
and leap as far as you can
the spotlight widens to hold you in.
Oh syncopated dancers, you amuse your
unseen audience that never will applaud
though you can feel its smile across the dark.
You do dance well, and you respect your art.
But now you know the light you wanted
will not let you go.
Your shadows dance with you upon the floor.
But they distort
and mock your dance.
And they can leave
the circle of the light. And they
can merge with what you cannot see.
But they are dancers too
and will not break
the frail connections to your feet.
(first pub. in Literary Humanist, 1975)
pale nude in sepia
caught in moment of
untouched by any artist
one arm raised
her face not yet filled in
a perfect torso
outlined from the other
sketches on the page
shapes and forms
perhaps to capture
what is lost
in the first
like the beginnings of
love… after love…
POSTCARD TO A SANE FRIEND
Strange, wearing my bones,
walking among the dead
with my protective smile.
My clothing holds me together.
I check this in the mirror.
It is true.
I don’t tell anyone how
everything moves through me:
the heat, the cold, the light.
I have learned to speak
from the hollows
with a non-echoing voice.
I am thinner than yesterday.
The artificial flesh I wear
is porous and flawed with pain.
It only lasted through its warranty.
I should write to the company
(first pub. in Oregonian Verse, 1972)
DREAMER TRYING TO WAKEN
A pale wash of sky. A gray house floating above a thick
pool of sleep. Sharp green wind in the leaves. Crows and
mockingbirds—song scattered over the morning.
Vibrations in the air. Sirens making jagged lines, distance
bringing them nearer, then fading-them by in streaks of red.
A smear of dog bark.
Agitation of flowers: white, and white, and white blur. A
blue confusion of shadow. A receding figure that goes
textureless in a slow distortion of dark movement.
Something inside the sleep that refuses to awake, seeking
return to the dream—someone out of range of reality—
someone caught in two dimensions.
Something wrong here: a lake of admiration—a woman
watching her shuddering reflection—a man coming up
behind her, carrying a child.
A child-sized boat that rocks on the groping water, a
glitter of goldfish flashing underneath. The child holds
out its hands. Laughs. The reflection reaches up.
An interruption of crow cries. A drowned doll on a
pillow, covered with tears. A red rose drooping in a
waterless vase in the room’s deep, protective shadow.
A hum of gray balances the sky. Stillness settles in,
becomes permanent. With a brush-stroke of brown,
the gray house attaches to the land. The artist signs
(Tiger’s Eye Contest: 1st Place, 1993;
first pub. in Tiger’s Eye, Winter, 2003)
THE PALE BIRD IN THE DREAM
It was the pale bird in the dream that I remembered.
It flew down a shaft of silence and found my window.
Glass broke in my mind and I shattered.
The pale bird entered my broken dream
and bled and bled its whiteness clear to the horizon.
(first pub. in The Bitter Oleander, 2002)
HALFWAY INTO THE DREAM
halfway into the dream the dreamer wakens
to a pale landscape of floating flowers . . .
swirls and swirls of monotones . . .
flowers made of sadnesses
which are the lost powers of the dreamer
each star goes out in turn,
oh where—and oh no,
the moon is still there,
pale in the dawn
the day comes on,
and the sun,
but the stars
I saw them
last night when
the sky was black and the stars
and seemed fastened there
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, 5/87)
POEM FOR THE STRANGER
This much of loneliness I shall do unto you. Our eyes shall
never meet across the strangeness—you in your pose before
the mirror, I bent over the illusive poem. We both love,
though love is never found the way we seek it—though we
go open and inventive toward its needing.
You bend to pick up the paper at morning with your long
and tireless arm, unfolding it to its headline and stand there
reading. World-person, what of me? I live on the tag-end
of small paragraphs of inside pages too uneventful to mention.
I am deleted, though I compose huge deeds and most of their
survivals. How could you learn of me?
I hear you sigh through walls of me. I am no house you enter,
though should you knock, I might not trust you where I hold
my breath behind the curtain. If we be murderer or friend—
whichever it falls for us to be—our fates are not entwined.
I am too busy. You are too far. We would not like each other.
And still I look at you on the other side of your eyes and my
surrealistic sleep—and do we levitate or drown, who are so dear
to each other—beyond all realness—though all is sensation and
not explicit feature. We hold each other in love and wake up lonely.
TIME CAN BE MEASURED
you have already inherited
you have already been kissed
by its loving eyes
and signed your self
so what is fame
and worth, at best, one
drop of rain
time can be measured
in instant or eternity
they are the same
(first pub. in Writers Showcase, 1971)
Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s tasty poems and pix!
Our new Seed of the Week is Secrets in the Attic. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.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 SOWs than you can shake a pencil at.
I TAKE WORDS
and they tumble by so fast . . .
and I grab them . . .
and they fall away . . .
and they find me,
“Let me be poem . .”
and they stay . . .
and they play
with sense and
they like themselves,
one way or another . . .
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