Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Clamoring of Birds

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

After The Birds’ Concert by Frans Snyders (1579-1656) 
It was the gathering of the birds
in a thrashing tree
struck by lightning
before thunder.
The skies
shrieked and moaned.
The birds fought for position
in a harrowing of cries.
The vertigo of life
was out of balance.
The world was careless.
Shadows upon shadows
fell through
the confusion of air
and deepened into one.
The birds flurried with energy
lost in the world
of evolving dispersion.
A voice tried to rise above the din
but it was a human voice
and had no power. 
A word
broke through
a flash of lightning,
but was overridden by the
desperate clamoring of the birds.



This night the bird sings to us through the open door—
a bird we name Night Bird since he is invisible in the dark,
a bird who insists we hear him—who sings and sings
his very best to impress us—and we give up
our conversation to him until he is finished singing,
and he gives back a silence that is lonelier and changed.

(first pub. in Porcupine, 2007)


If you are lonely a bird will sing all night.
Do not look at the clock.
Let only the birdsong through.
Time does not measure anything.

Do not look at the clock.
The bird is a messenger from life.
Time does not measure anything.
Let suffering heal you.

The bird is a messenger from life.
Somewhere another is weeping.
Let suffering heal you.
Whatever is lost is lost.

Somewhere another lies weeping.
Even night’s sirens cry for what they find.
Whatever is lost is lost.
Another silence takes over.

Even the sirens cry for what they find.
Let only the birdsong through.
Another silence takes over.
If you are lonely a bird will sing all night.


This is the song. I will sing it.
Bright. Like a bird.

Morning, I will sing.
Morning and sunlight, I will sing.
New day! New day!
I will sing.
Happy, happy, happy . . .
like a silly mockingbird.

And you will call me Mad-Woman
and I will stop singing.

(first pub. in Acorn, 1995)



Coming to the hard red edge—doing what needs doing,
seeing the black go blacker and the hiding birds singing

their deep hiding songs, controlling the careful edge with
no light so that all the dark keeps darkening—enclosing, 

enclosing—oh, how carefully he prepares the perfection
of this frame, holding it there, seeing it, doing it, being it.


I seek the comfort of the flowers where
the garden is the darkest and the glare
of sunlight has not yet become aware.

It does not reach beyond the dappled wall
where songbirds used to sing and so enthrall
—as though you ever needed song at all.

Your flowers are allowed to flaunt themselves,
and scent the air, but birds must hush themselves.

But here is where I go, to listen still,
to where the meadowlark would trill and trill
—and memory of this can thrill and thrill.

Your deafness will not let itself allow
the echoed singing that remembers how
it filled your happy heart that hates it now.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)



when the birds
were young as spring
they grew gray feathers
and their eyes went dim
they brought love to my window
in little diamonds of singing

that was the season of my joy

now in
the loose cages
of the trees
the birds are older than
all reflective distances
their song is broken glass
the bloodless leaves turn gray
and are heavily falling.

(first pub. in Broccoli, 1970)

This quiet morning  
—after the white dream—
the sun not yet filtering through the tree
outside the window—an unseen bird

is brightly singing—somewhere in
the morning—repeated now
for emphasis on the bluish gray sky. 

And as I record this, the bird
stops, as though arrested
by my thought, and a hum in the air,

that may be the wind, or the far
day-sounds beginning, sounding
like ocean against shore.

I can smell the salt. I can hear
the sea gulls, lonely as ever, circling
and crying, above the traffic now.

And the clock says 6:00
though I know it is really 5:00. 
And the unseen bird is singing again.

Soon the sun will fill the dark leaves
of the tree with gold fluttering light
and I will close this poem.


Oh, to keep it simple—no more embroil our discontent
in public scrutiny or private enmity—get past the sulk

and rage that are habitual. Let us both be weary of
the war we wage—no matter who might win or lose.

It does not matter any more. Let’s put the war aside
while we inspect this day for grace and purity.

The birds are singing in the trees and I would listen
to them and feel the scented air and light erase

the tension from my face, and yours. Give me
your hand and let us see if all is well with things

outside our lives. I feel a difference in me. I want you
to feel it, too.  Come with me while we can. It’s spring.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

All night, the unseen mockingbird
       shared its lyric singing,
               making sleep impossible.

All night, the slow red moon
       rose through the smoky sky
               and became a white moon.

Now morning bristles
       with raucous bursts of song
              from the numerous crows.


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her gourmet poems and pix today, bringing birdsong to life for our Seed of the Week! Her “Montage”, by the way, is a triversen: triple verse sentence of variable accents—each stanza is one complete sentence, broken into three phrases: three lines of three phrases equals one stanza. For more about the triversen, go to lewisturco.typepad.com/poetics/2014/08/form-of-the-week-2-the-triversen.html or poetscollective.org/poetryforms/triversen/.

EEEK! Too many snakes in my head, I guess. Last Friday I misspelled Mike Aviña’s name; yesterday I posted Taylor Graham’s photos upside-down (it’s since been fixed)! I really don’t like Daylight Savings Time...it addles my already addled brain...

Our new Seed of the Week is Seedy Motels. 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. For inspiration, there’s a photo album of “cheap motels” by Photographer Mike Mandel at www.flickr.com/photos/mikemandel/albums/72157635891061933/.

Don’t forget the Sac. Poetry Center reading tonight, Tuesday, 7:30pm—an unusual day—featuring Archana Venkatesan and Sikkil Gurucharan and hosted by Rhony Bhopla. 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—wherever you find it!

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