You are one. Then you are two. Then you
are all three—one self at a time—blending
through veil after veil of evolution.
You go through glass like light.
You go through substance like evasion.
You go through time like memory.
You name yourself: Yesterday, Now,
Tomorrow. But you are the one you return to,
singular and central—vaguely distant—
playing with some thought that escapes you.
You feel whole—then you feel divided—
then you feel broken. Love tenderly strokes
you with hands of salt, pours tears over
the cut places, then draws a veil of silence
over its eyes when you are not grateful for
such consideration. You nest yourself—
one self inside the other—coordinate to
an illusion of one: Body, Shadow, Soul,
combined and separate, never quite in harmony,
but foreign and protective. Only the cracks
in the mirror show the fine lines of difference.
WHAT THE MIRROR SEES
You turn your face toward the window,
watch the rain,
feel the room shiver.
You become anonymous,
put on a cloak of indifference
to brave the night with its opposite direction.
Someone is getting in the way of your arrival
a face—without a name—without a history.
You move to his arms like a shadow.
The mirror closes its eyes.
NOW IN THE DEAR DEAD MORNING
Now in the dear dead morning the body is coming
to life, sitting in thrill-song like a hidden bird. “Ah,
you again”, it says. And I say, “Yes, me again”.
And we trace together the dark reaches of should
and must not, until we come to the hole in the air.
Here is where we must enter”, body says.
“Tomorrow surely”, I demur, and wait just a little
behind the fear until the hole closes. Overhead, on
humdrum wires, dark birds perch close together—
keeping balances. I admire. “Ah, you again”, I say
to them, because body is becoming bored and lying
down in fading shadow. This of course
sends birds into birds in a flurry of hallucination.
“Yes, we again”, they answer, rising from wires
in deadly unison to claw the morning air.
Tomorrow I will wear the dress.
Oh, seamless thing.
It will be torn
where I have fought the sleeve
that tries to form
the shape of my life.
Its buttons will resist
I will not let its small stain rest
where my heart is—
making its memory too tight.
I do not like this dress.
MINSTREL COMING YOUR WAY
I protester of sorrows
go about saying joy
I have been to the
agonizers and complainers
and I tell you their faces
are like dead flowers
I have brought stems
put leaves on them give me
the buds of your children
listen for bees
hear the wind saying
golden . . . golden . . .
I will make songs for you
you will tell me the words
we will sing them together
with mauve voices
I am coming tomorrow with my
send me a map
on some old page of winter
use a white crayon
and tell me your names
(first pub. in South Carolina Review, 1973)
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—
as if not truly connected—
one smooth run
uphill and down
and time is yours,
your own private forever. Time undone.
LOOKING FOR THE MOON
How the moon
in a worry of sky
is kept bound by the tree
that keeps hiding it in its branches . . .
How the moon—in spite of this—
hides from the tree
in a freedom of sky—
cold and far—nearly perfect . . .
And how the tree lets it go
when we pass it by, leaving
these thoughts to wander upward
toward that unreachable surface . . .
Tomorrow we will find the moon,
in one of its places in the sky—
fully round—the cold, chiseled moon,
phrased lightly with scar-like detail . . . .
Now in the dream of the bed, on the raft of night, the child
remembers the slowness of the day—the quietness of the
mother, the rustlings in the other room. The bed floats on
the dark fear. The child lies beside the mother and tries to
sleep. The mother whispers to her . . .
Now in the memory of the dream, in the dream of the raft,
which tries to float out of the room and down the stair; out
of the day, which has lengthened from night; out of the
dream, which tries to release her—the chance is exciting,
but the walls impede . . .
Now in the dream of the mother which tries to release the
child from the fear—from the raft—from the rustlings of
the other room, from the whispering, comes the secret
door of instruction: Be patient. Be quiet. Be still.
Tomorrow we will leave here.
On night’s blue flower,
a blue mountain butterfly—
blue mountain shadows
closing into blue twilight—
turning it pure indigo.
Low-tide sea, leaving
blue sand strewn with seaweed pods
and one lone walker, from
the edge, watching the old moon
emerge with its sad blue light.
I tremble with grief…
last blue butterfly reaching
the end of its day—
tomorrow will not matter:
one small death used for grieving.
POEM FOR YESTERDAY
(Another poem for Ann)
Do not let me hold your sadness.
I might bruise it like a flower.
It is too valuable a thing
to give away—
no—save it for tomorrow.
Your glass laughter
falls about the room
and I catch
the little dark notes of it
in my deepest mirror.
All grim happiness is shared this way.
You are really a dancer,
pagan as fast music,
your feet catching in the
green grass of the rug.
Oh, your joyous shadow
cannot keep up with you.
You take your eyes and your mind
and me to a place where
the man smiles and says hello
and runs his hands
over music to hurt us.
We fill our glasses with
sadness after sadness
and sing him love.
Tell your morning not to go.
I take my illness
and my broken song away.
You swim in smiles,
leaning against the black body
of the piano, giving it
resonance. You are like
a heart that I leave behind.
To keep you safe
I fold down the wings
of your car before I go . . .
I hope you are writing poems today.
(first pub. in The Ark River Review, 1971)
…motion of life…the face
in transfiigurement of mood
the changing attitude
the invisible look of air
(if we could see it)
as we move through it
the way a silence
shapes to sound
and sound to silence
the way the eyes
draw in their sorrow
the way time moves
within the clock
and yesterday in tomorrow…
Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s powerful poems and phlower photos! Joyce is talking here about our Seed of the Week, Tomorrow. And tomorrow brings up yesterday, of course, and today…
Our new Seed of the Week is Unwanted Gifts. 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 plenty of others to choose from.
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