Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Several Ways of Loss

Red Horizon
—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I go to the Sunday room
where ruin has scattered itself
all over the broken sunlight patterns
on the rug which is worn thin with
footprints and faded colors.

There, a whole lifetime rehearses
its sorrow which is yet to be;
the walls are consoling the space
they enclose and hymns
are coming from the radio.

Voices have left the dream and
cannot be remembered. The window
releases its sunlight every morning
when I raise the old dark window shade
and turn to face the day.

How come the memory keeps changing,
like a life that has been rewritten?
Some voice from a shadow scolds,
and I weep. A doorway threatens
to let me leave. I no longer belong here.



These ruts, mud-driven, hard as crust in summer,
filled with dust that scatters up, then settles back.

The road goes on until it reaches somewhere
known—like home, or keeps on going—

a road that follows a sort of crow-path way
between far places that connect.

It’s just such roads as this that I am lonely for,
rocky, uneven roads, through died-out trees,

where shadows sleep with sunlight undisturbed
with long-brimmed silences between cars.

Oh, what to call this place—this nowhere place.
I’ve never been there, but I miss it so.



Distractions: Something to break the distance to the eye:
A jagged line. A sound off to the edge. A movement in
the light. Something to cure the fear of being far and
almost night. (That fence along the road—was that same
break in it there before?) The last time you asked the way,
liars told you that this was a place of no circles—one
straight long road; their fingers pointed where. Ahead of
you, the sky; and in it, an airplane coming at you. No place
to hide.

Magnifications: That evening bird with the echoes in its
voice. The wind that speaks in raspy leaves. Shadows that
compare themselves to hunters.

Confusions: The fence repeating itself every fourth mile.
The airplane repeating its way across the sky, and aiming
its wings now—right at you. No houses to run to, except
the one just ahead of you—there is no way that leads from
it. The face at the window is watching. Its mouth is endless
with a blame. Its arms are full of suffocations. It is adding
its crimes and apologies to your name. It is the only place
to go. Walk slow.

 Day Melting

After “After The Dancing” by Gerald Stern

Long into the gray night, full of mystery and gray roses,
wall-paper vagueness, the way lights pale against
the ceiling from passing cars that turn down this street

then turn around, lost.  This is where things get lost,
small gray moths hiding everywhere, watching our
shadows dance to the gray shadows briefly illuminated

by groping lights from those lost cars.  We are the furtive
dancers; these lost streets are ours.  But we dance—we
who are lost together—dance to the furtive music of quiet

radios, reaching through the windows of our eyes to each
other, yet holding ourselves far enough away to not touch
lest we become hopelessly lost in each other’s flailings.

 Wrong Way


this is the way it will be :
the strain against bleakness
the map against time

you must go the several ways of loss
ask no one directions there
overcome apprehension when
all becomes silent and still

you must choose from many doors
none of them locked
only one is the right one
and you must go with your first choice

you will become obsessed with symbols
all things will become
meanings to other things
you will consult horoscopes

relevancy is this :
how you determine what you learn
do you have all the ingredients
for a decision
don’t answer until you know

it is a long time to sit staring
into the way you would go
take as long as you need

you will go under the rain
it is a way to be sane
going despite the crow cry
uttered once on the morning

it is blue now
a whispery sound at the edges
a huge red flower made of cloth
hanging on a dress

it is going to be summer soon
but first, there is the
tragedy of this winter

nothing is ever forgiven
do not expect miracles

(first pub. in Gallery Series Five Poets, 1977)

 Pretty Little Town


Let us not forget how we were children—
drawn like a thread through some defining word,
blending ourselves into life’s conversation
before we thought of life as tragedy.

Innocence is first—first gift of children,
layered over—word by word by word.
How should we continue this conversation
without it becoming a singular tragedy?

Can we really know ourselves as children?
—as if the meaning changes in that word
we give ourselves and use for conversation
to play the amusing role of tragedy.

In truth, we barely remember ourselves as children
—forgetting some year as one forgets a word—
leaving gaps of meaning in each conversation
where there is always room for one more tragedy.

And here we are, bemoaning ourselves as children,
groping, it seems, for yet another word
to fill the gap in one more conversation
to prove we are—or are not—worth our tragedy.


After Three Men Walking, 1948 by Giamocetti

Walking out from the center of the mirror, I face
three directions and am at once at the mercy of
three compulsions.  Thus am I split into the three

measurements of existence:  I am past, present,
and future.  But, still, I am of the mirror—that
mothering eye that will not diminish or release,

but only gives me a glimpse of illusion—that
bordering reach—that drift off the fathomless
edge around me.  If only I can pull away at the

exact moment, I will escape the unguarded blink
that must occur.  Even now, I can feel my three
selves slip the magnetic hold of my own fear

and reluctance—that pull at the weakening
center—if only I am that brave—if only I can
break my own trance, and that of the mirror.



Come, let us lean on one another through this difficult
light—this landscape of abstraction where we are changed
as we go through the shiftings.

Let us perfect a thread of reassurance—make up a call to
use—scratch marks on stones—leave a drop of blood to
prove our presence.

Did I not see you bleed in red light, sharpened by glass
distance we have not yet reached? We are not from that
city that pretends itself so we will enter.

Let us obey the circle that forms and gives us permission.
We are in the mind’s eye. What a blessing. Something loves
us. We are safe here. Don’t let go.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Travel this dark
that goes too wide
across the day
which is too long
which has
no other way
but through
and has
no other traveler
but you.

(first pub. in
Poetalk, 1995)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine poetry and pix today, exploring our Seed of the Week (Are We There Yet?) via the notion of travel and roads. Our new Seed of the Week is Hats. How many “hats” do you wear in any given day? Do you have any vivid hat memories? I rarely wear hats, but I still have the one I wore in my wedding to Sam (the dress is long gone, but I still have the hat). Go wide and talk about hats metaphorically as well as literally; then 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.


 The snakes of Medusa must wear many hats...
(Celebrate Poetry!)

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.