Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Words Are Mountains (I Live In Their Shadow)

A Touch of Color
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


These simple stick-trees of winter
without their first leaves, too frail it seems
for the winds that tear

at their nervous gesturing
at the gray air, being merely a fragile part
of the cold landscape

with the empty bench and the stark lines
of a fence leaning against
whatever it was meant to separate;

and sometimes a lonely figure
will stand there
in the flat texture of the day,

a shrinking silhouette,
looking outward,
featureless, bareheaded,

hands in pockets of a coat,
seeming to be—itself—a tree of sorts,
as the day darkens toward evening;

and still the figure stands
and watches whatever is there to gather
for the mood of such lingering;

and the trees,
that look like a child’s drawing
of such trees,

shudder into themselves
with the toughness
it takes to survive such desolation.

 So Quiet

After Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
by Shiro Kasamatsu, 1938

the old blue shadows
the lone figure in the rain
the orange street lamp
in the pond
and on
the rain-sodden path

the lone figure receding
resolute    silent    lonely 
only a revenant
to memory
blue trees whisper
rain    rain

the small bridge crossing
the same wet night
the narrow
for leaning down
for looking into
the shimmering water

the wet umbrella
still bobbing
in the shrinking distance
the slow blue night
still murmuring,
rain     rain

 Beginning Again


A woman stands in familiar blue light;
familiarly a mirror addresses her,
creating a double.

Then a third woman appears, turned away
from the two—as if disdaining the vanity
of the two who so admire each other.

And they do a hypnotic turn in a center :
the two, the mirror, and the one turned away.
This is not for the fondness of memory.

It is only a turn of forgetfulness of mirrors
in vain cupidity, though there is only 
the one that contains three images.



last night the sky,
so subtle,
taking daylight down,
a streak of orange on the blue,
white clouds here and there—diffusing,

my-god! the words we knew to say,
but didn’t say, we only glanced, remarked a bit,
then turned away, the sky took on the hue
of quiet change, showing separate parts
of a marriage, so subtle…,



You see these scars, the way they dramatize
my beauty and my age, the way they shine
against the softest light when I implore
toward all those who stare—who will believe
what they believe of scars?  I can’t explain.
I simply woke one year and they were there,
all healed, but sensitive to certain touch,
the way they ache when I am cold, or scared,
as if some memory still works its way
toward the obvious—or better yet—
the lurid gossip of some history

that some suppose.  I simply own these scars.
Whatever life inflicts is what they mean—
whatever I have suffered or suppressed—
or given up as sacrifice—or turned
away from some destruction that I sought
when I betrayed myself—oh, long ago
before my mirror pulled against my life—
though not with vanity, but with some truth
of having learned what one can never learn
except for scars.  I’m not ashamed—or proud;
I simply own them.  How they mesmerize

my staring when I study them and wonder
why I never noticed them before.  What scars?
What scars?  You ask.  What scars?  Why these,
these long white marks that crisscross everywhere,
that raise and pucker—that never will lie smooth
beneath my eyes that see—my hands that touch—
these scars.  And you—now that you see them too,
you turn away.  Your hand recoils, your eyes
avert, and you have nothing more to say.
You wanted love.  You wanted truth.  And, yes,
you even wanted me—but not with scars.

 I Remember the Drive


It was for poetry we made these ruins,
colored them white for distraction,
marked on the calendar the disappearing days.
So many, we sighed. Not enough, we amended.
There is no death, said the words.

In the church of love,
we gazed at the artifacts that adorned the walls.
So many, we sighed, and shifted our eyes.
You wore an aura of red. I deflected you
with a confusion of resistance.
Our hands almost met.
I could not remember the words.

Someone played a guitar in the doorway
to block our going. We sang with the others.
We decided to forego black for the mourning.
Whatever was left, we divided.
Strange to be halved, we marveled,
folding our wings. Oh, Angel, I cried.
Oh, Angel, you answered.



Muse with me while we gather light for a poem.
We will read it later—

tell each other what it means,
then reminisce awhile,

compare amazements—how much our lives
are parallel—

how many years
we’ve known each other,

while we confess,
or commiserate—

let down the burden of our cares
to hold each other’s dark—

find some new -/- old words
to fill our many silences with explication,

then laugh—
or cry—

whichever is needed. 
Old friend, as close and separate as we are,

I muse these thoughts for you
from this old, well-worn and reliable, loving heart. 



Words are left after silence to take what they need
of love. They wait—no, lurk—in my brain
like an illness or an ambition.

Words affiliate themselves
with sound and meaning
so I can express myself through them.

Harmony and discord go hand in hand . . .
no, that is trite . . .
they co-exist in effort, and whatever opposes that.

What can I make of them—my thoughts?
my language?
my love, and non-love? to go back

to the beginning
where beginnings slide you forward
on effort you think is your own?

Why do I say all this :
Words are mountains, I live in their shadow
and shadow-reaches—how better can I say it?


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

snow under moonlight,

blue as ache
blue as longing
blue as cold fire

becoming slow translucence,
becoming blue sheen of silence


Thank you, Joyce Odam, for putting together your poems and photos for this week despite the ravages of flu and sciatica! And thank YOU, Robin Odam, exquisite daughter of Joyce, for helping her get them over the airwaves to the caves of Medusa!

Our new Seed of the Week is stolen from Joyce’s photo title above, A Touch of Color. Despite the weather, color is all around us. Send your poems, photos & 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.


 Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
by Shiro Kasamatsu
(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.