Tuesday, January 03, 2017

A Sharpness of Birdsong

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I go against the world today, put all my force
against its cold, pull on the layers to protect,
name myself Winter.

I learn to watch the sky that hangs in gray
monotony and start to count the days again
to move the dreary calendar along.

I pace myself against the darkened mood that
burrows in, alter the pattern of my hours—
these short days—long nights, the shutting down.

Once more I learn the old endurances. The bitter
with the sweet, I smile, at nothing in particular,
and watch the empty trees for signs of leaf.

(prev. pub. in  ONE(DOG)PRESS, 1999)



The sky, filling with blue, then a fragile cloud or
two, threading.  A sharpness of birdsong, penetrating

the silence—brief—and from no distance other than
where it was a startled moment back.  Then that slow

soft tone of whiteness that takes the place of early
blue, the way you slowly surrender the owned moment

to the swift intrusion of sounds and urgencies—your
reluctance to rise from your bed—seductive with

comfort, warm around you.  The sky again, gone flat
outside your window measure—full of daylight now,

the clouds losing their pink direction, taking on the
heavy factory gray that smudges them.

You stretch and sigh.  Look at the clock.  Get up.
Old night.  New day.


The year comes trailing in like an innocent
bystander and finds me in the first hour
and we size each other up and take some
sort of stance to suggest intention,

we greet each other carefully and ask
direction of one another,
and here we are at the same beginning—
dependent on one another, somehow,

to make it work—whatever we say
and mean. And we wander off together—
down the days—and become destined—
though the particulars are yet to be realized.



Wanting pure song this day of un-beginning,
of already winding too tight—re-learning
its saddest joy from heartache and hope,

from wanting and needing—
from striving and failing—and striving again
into the hours that are draining—how

can I hope this—want this—
so much, when from a  meadow
of remembered time—there is a meadowlark.


Through the beginning which is unknown,
into the ending which is unknown,
morning-time and night-time,
eternity-circle and beginning—
together there is a sway.
Many enter this sway,
enter and find the
core of stillness—
like the quiet eye
of the hurricane—all
brokenness—all healing.
Suffer and let pain heal you.
Something measures you by this.


In my dream again
I saw the two white egrets in a pond
making a quiet ripple among the lily pads
and the tall dark spears of listening grasses—

two egrets looking in the same direction
toward some sound or movement,
and I, caught there,
went still and listened with them.

What was it that I needed to know of
this familiar tableau where they
always held the still pose
that transferred their instinct to mine.

No shadow moved upon the water.
No light shifted from the moon.
They would cross again
 this dream dominion.

What could I learn from this—
this tranquil moment before some answer
drew me awake into the brimming silence
of the moon as a sound from somewhere
startled back into the white shadow of my sleep?

After Angel of the Last Judgement, 1911, Wassily Kandinsky

So why is blue so lost amid gold swirl and bruising red?
Is the soul so lost in turmoil
that it is torn on its own ascent?

Is the wing conditional to flight and the effort freed?
What need persists beyond a meaning that is moot?
There is no form for life to fit except its own.

Who cares if music dies without its praise?
If lies are meant to soothe all hurt, then lies be blest;
let hurt assuage its own connective.

What is worth an answer if it’s wrong?  Let’s reassess:
The blue is torn.  The wing is fragment-white.
The gold is truth, but smeared within the ruin of light.

What’s left is rage and melancholy.
Love is the music at the center
and the edge—as if one were another.

The blend is felt as one perfection—
movement and stillness
expressed in abstract harmony.  Let it be so.

All is enough and what it is.
Let’s look—and look away—before we know.
Knowing is the end to what we seek.

So, it is light, that, and the darkness light concealed,
the allowing of color to form itself with the help
of brush and mind—the guilt of weeping afterwards.


Sit here awhile. Become stone.
Become sunshine. Become shade.
Become that fear you fear.
Let it fade. Become nothing at all
for awhile. Part of its part.
The whole thing, or the no thing.
It’s a start. You are new,
as you are old. Each moment
of you. Tick and tock. Like a clock.
Feel your way through. Here.
This bench. On the way to where
you are from where you’re going.
Touch the air with your face.
Fasten to some other thing outside
of you.     That stone.     That bird.

(prev. pub. in Chrysanthemum, Senior Magazine,
NOIR LOVE, (Rattlesnake Press LittleBook #2, 2009)


Today’s LittleNip:
—Joyce Odam

I do my
own calendar.

Death Month.

Which day?
So close to midnight

Three time-zones


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poetry and pix, helping us start the new year with a sharpness of birdsong!

Our new Seed of the Week is a broad one—Water. 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 plenty to choose from.



 Celebrate fresh water and fresh poetry—and fresh cats!
And travel up to El Dorado Hills tonight, 5pm, for
Poetry Off-the-Shelves at the El Dorado Hills Library. 
Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 
at the right) for info about this and other upcoming 
poetry events in our area—but note that more 
may be added at the last minute!

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.