Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Like Clouds of Angels

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


A lone black bird on a sudden quiet path—south
to north across the field outside my window as
I glance out at just this moment of this day—the
field a makeshift canvas of brimming shade in
sunlight—how sharp its flight against that
shadow/wash of gold—how quick and silent
on the morning.

(first pub. in Manzanita Quarterly, 2001)



through the sounds
of rusty clanging,
down the centuries,
O, worrisome, informational,
bidding old ruins
to listen—still listen,
even through the thunder-light
of history, stirring up
old sermons and hymns
blending with the prayers
and cries of saints and sinners,
interchangeable—all is not well,
old town criers still cry—
loyal as bell-ringing, patient as echoes.

 That Bird


It was the year before white birds
flying over black dream-forest
where secrets lived
and echoes were last heard.

This was strictly rumor.

Clocks were wound
and then left to run down.
There were no survivors of the ruin.
It was a dead mirage.

We followed anyway—
hope fluttering before us,
white-winged—deliberate—and slow,
as though

there was never any reason to hurry.

we found Hope—
floundering behind us—lost and anxious—
and surprised.



As the swift day moves Blue Crow shines in the half-light
of dusk, forgetting what it knows. Its gold eye burns in the
slanted, lowering light. It seems fastened, timeless, painted
there in captive colors, absolved of all instinct—

but the image does not hold, Blue Crow flies off in abrupt,
erratic flight, leaving an after-image of itself. Or did it merely
lift and return in a shift of illusion—something to wonder
about in this deceptive light.

 Medusa's Dream


out in the small tree
in flashes of sunlight
small birds
scatter their flight
against the leaves

of the same size
of the same movement
in little catches of wind
leaves become birds
birds become leaves

(first pub. in No Name Newsletter for Poets, 2002
Interminglings Mini-Chap, 2000)



Oh black humble bird, flying in blue shadow, loosening
like a veil—your eye scoping everywhere—swirls of red
and yellow help you get through. The sky widens. You
are motionless. Only the color moves. You are being borne
like a magic feather into the great sacrifice. Already you
are becoming extinct, and you are so eager . . .

now we are made pageless—
nothing to write upon
and we are so full
of swift-falling thought
out of pencil
out of pen
with only
one thought
to give memory to—
oh what a waste, what can we do about it . . .
Oh, great sky window, you have let everything through to
me, my channeler, my mentor-cord, my thread to another
realm from which my thoughts come to me, already known
and allowable as truth. I take credit with a twinge of ques-
tion: do I really know all this—am I worthy ‘to own’—
prattling blithely along with my guilty ownership . . . .

 Blue Threnody

To a hawk . . .

There was a death in the sky;
a hawk fell without a cry——

so sure was the shot that took
what the slow path of flight forsook

and let go the hawk from the air
that rang with emptiness where

eyes grieved to follow its path,
with nothing to catch it except

death with its crumpling arms.
The heart suffers many alarms

and mine was the guilt of my aim
—so carelessly focused to claim

the kill I’d forever regret.
I have not forgiven me yet.

I did not——I could not——intend
to not miss, thus bringing an end

to that innocent target in soar,  
that my rifle-sights followed and tore

the breath from our lives. That is all.
It is I who continue the fall.



I went on a soar—
                         dreaming all night.
Lit the moon with my boldness.
                         I was made of light.
I was made of cold—
                         did not fear the height.
The billow-gown I wore
                        was my travel kite
through the luminous skies—
                        the darkness so bright
I knew my way through
                        with a vast dream-sight.
The sky was so deep I knew
                        it was all right
to be there—like a thought-bird—
                        as if I might
become winged—find word
                        where throat was tight
with word resistance.
                        The dream would invite
me again, I thought, as everything blurred.
                        As everything went white.

 Nary a Bird in This Sky


The time of the birds
has come and gone.

We no longer symbolize each other
in flight or song.

We have left silences
and agonies of listening.

We have left
every distance folded in the wing.


After “Flight of Birds”, 1955 by Morris Graves

Terror-force of movement—
the skies intruding—a collage
of birds becoming a wingless blur
taking on the shape of one comet-fall
through ultimate migration.
                              Which way forward
and which way back?
                              The skies change,
making a hole  (       )  to fly through.
Now they are each )( part of the other,
each one leading, each one following:               
                                   remember  them? 




Joyful, we rise like a cloud of angels
flying a straight line;
like geese in their true direction—

too high to be seen.
Like all the agonies of the world
we are released into forgotten dreams

like a scattering of soft white clouds
that trail like dresses
made of moonlight.

Joyful, we are released
from dreams of the troubled.
We are the solutions of sleep.

Children admire us,
then forget us.
We do not look back.

We are the sensations that come
before weeping.
The sky trembles to receive us.

We penetrate the lining of grief
until we are no longer needed.
When called back

we suffer with disappointment.
We thought we were free,
but we return

through the echoes
that never fade. We separate
and return to the memories we trust.


Today’s LittleNip:
—Joyce Odam

Shape of flying : to see the shape of the
fish in the bird—water or sky—wing
or fin—time flies back to its beginning.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her evocative birds and their homes in the sky, her take on our Seed of the Week: Flying. One phrase from her “Over a Sea of Shadows” (“soft white clouds /that trail like dresses/made of moonlight”) reminded me of moon gardens, which are planted in all-white flowers so that they shimmer in the summer moonlight. So our new Seed of the Week is Moon Gardens. How do you describe them? What happens there—what hides, who meets, what else goes on under the moonlight? 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 others to choose from.

And don’t forget that Poetry Off-the-Shelves will meet from 5pm-7pm in El Dorado Hills at the library tonight, 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.


 —Anonymous Stained Glass Window
Celebrate Poetry!

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