Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Forgetting Greek (Dreaming of Spring)

—Poems, Photos and Original Artwork 
by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


When she forgot her language she forgot
her love, though her house was brimming
with light in the possessible dark

where her husband kept looking through
all the bright rooms for what she forgot
and wept into the telephone his loss;

but she was away in her mind—
in a place without words—forgetting
her endearments, her lusty persuasions,

the laugh that scattered her opinions
until he believed each one
and she ruled the new place of forgetting.



Eve wept through a planned darkness
going though the tangles of guilt
that filled up the exit like trees;

she suffered as long as she could
then tattooed her left hip
with an apple and became a belly dancer,

celebrating the birth of all her daughters
who would be born
to mothers of the future.

(first pub. in Potpourri, 1996)

 Cover, Brevities magazine


out of this child is coming
the life is
coming the
unequal moan it is
coming on fours
already wounded it
will not rise
it sniffs at the floor
it whines till you open the
door for its breathing
this child that is
a beast
crippled and obscene
that will not look back
at the mute mother with the
blind hands
this child will be
pathetic will not grow
will remain cramped in size
filling such huge darkness
you will not be able
to forgive it
do not wrap it do not
feed it do not give it a name
it belongs to the
curse as well as the prayer
it does not ask you
to want it

(first pub. in Kansas Quarterly, 1973/74)



I am embryo of death,
held in throbbing measure,
with time to wonder, time
to feel, to learn
that I am not the dreamer
but the dream.

I grow through
all the stages and must not
abort myself
before the full gestation,
nor can I be completed
till the sleeper stirs.

At first dull twinge
of wakening,
I thrust against
the wall of life
and give
one fetal gasp in that
omnipotent dark birth.

(first pub. in The Promethean Lamp, 1964)


This birth—this birth of death,
too young to live;

this interrupted thing—
this thought

this vague idea
of child—

unknown, unnamed, unloved,
unwanted yet,

that now
lets go.


After Yves Tanguy, 1939, The Furniture of Time

There was one landscape left, marked by the indescribable
leavings of a ruined world. Here and there a shadow
moved, pitiful and dead.

Winds came to moan forever their laments. Bird ghosts
hovered. Something final crumbled at the horizon.
A thin, lone creature loped away. 

The sun came up and went down like lead. The world
was black and white. An old desire gave up its wanting.
Time itself gave up its counting.

Somewhere a dreamer stirred under a heavy dream and
tried to waken. In the cradle, a child was dreaming
of its birth, which had just happened.

The moon grew heavy in the sky and needed its reflection.
There was no face of water. The child had already forgotten
how to cry. The bones of music vibrated in the ruined air.


and the
black sky of sleep
bore her ever inward
and back
back to her birth
and farther
back to her first memory
of death which had
released her

when child was
surrendered from herself
and unwilling
what was the dream
that sent her crying back
to the arms of her mother



going round—going round
—a mechanical whirl,
there is feel there to feel,

there is pull—there is
pull—the dizzy sky—the
moving ground

in the in of the spin of
the humming sound
let the ear find the eye—

open the mind—spin in
the mind that tries
to defy—turn—and turn

the world around,
make no cry—no cry
to undo the sound

After “Interval (for Roethke)” by Rolf Humphries

That interval between birth and death,
that long breath called life
that we honor and betray
and wish away the most of it
with false tomorrow—

every sorrow
measured differently

as if not truly connected—
one smooth run
uphill and down
and time is yours.
Your own private forever. Time undone.



In the center of my mind
a little child is
learning to be me.

She is as old as my death
and she is blowing out
our birthday candle.

(first pub. in Whole Notes, 1997)


When I was the one, the first holy one,
of my other being; when I knew myself,
and the way of myself
and out of longing for myself,
and there was no other,
and even then I sought,
and my own blood was flowing,
and I bled until I was pure of my bleeding,
and this was God
in my pleading,
and I answered,
and was ordained to ever ask
and answer
and still I complained of my prayer
and my conviction,
and I went to the tower of words
and it was a mountain
and it leaned into the falling sky
and even then I signified nothing
for a moment,
for a long, powerful moment,
and was united with my birth
long after I died,
and thus I cried and cried
for myself and others
and nothing came to me
except my ego which was made of words
made of thoughts, and they entangled.
Oh, why do I remember this?
It was all done before it began,
and I was diminished.
My tears drained me and I was a river 
pouring down a mountain in the eyes of God.



in the sky
like a high
promise made of sunset and
voice of, say God, in His Most

Religious Moment—shining there
like a private illusion, not at all (un)like
some Neon Cloud Formation
made of pollution dust in a windless sky,

the ocean blazing beneath it
with shimmering red light from the
disappearing sun, and lapping against

the consciousness of everything
even the silhouette of the very earth…
the breathing trees…  the (un)breathing stone
picked up at random and carried in a pocket,

where some divining hand can feel
the comfort of it. Oh, sweet digression,
you have carried me away from

The Number In The Sky
which seemed so vain
with its self-congratulation—and was

so admired by the (un)discerning,
and the envious, like an ad for happiness :
Oh, One;   Oh, Zero;   Oh, Ten.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I follow you with hours made of time
though you do not remember
let alone know anything of me,

and yet our years connect,
one for birth
and one for dying—

thus do I honor—
who am mentored
by your words—the words I love :

poet words,
words caught
in the pulsate nudgings of the mind

with tongues that sting on syllables
of pain, and taste, with tears,
the vowels that love back

—what I accede to—
that I, with my last breath,
will whisper to the hours of my life.


So many thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine riffs, visual and word-wise, on our Seed of the Week: The Challenges of Breeding. Our new Seed of the Week is Birdsong—there’s plenty of that outdoors right now as spring emerges out of the darkness. And/or feel free to talk about TWEETING, and certain BIRDBRAINS who do that… 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 of fine SOW possibilities from the past.

Roll on up to El Dorado Hills tonight, 5pm, for the Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around at the El Dorado Hills Library, 7455 Silva Valley Parkway. 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—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


Celebrate poetry!—and poetry in-jokes...


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