Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Pursuing the Dark Unease (The Fear Collection)

Where Am I?
—Poems, Photos and Original Artwork 
by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Fear comes tapping toward me with a long stick,
pointing and swaying, tapping its way
through my hiding;
fear with its blank face and glazed eyes rolling,
making me cower deeper into the shadows;
fear with its caneless hand out-stretched and groping,
feeling its way
toward the sound of my breathing.
I close my eyes,
but fear is still there,
its white cane sweeping;
I melt through each swipe of the cane
and manage
to avoid being touched,
but the space we both fit is so small;
and fear can sense me—feel my nearness—
and is ever so deliberate now.
The wall shadows are not dark enough to hold me—
though I press so deeply into them.



Mother gave it to me,
her first fear.

It will protect you
she told me,
and it did.

She bought me a tiny cupboard
to keep it in
and told me to keep it dusted

Each year
she added another,

and when I broke one
she was so hurt…
I never broke another.

(first pub. in CQ [California State Poetry
Quarterly], 1996)



See how this is important,
how I know these things?
You will leave me for this.
But you have given yourself to me
and I must consider what this means.

I must consider what this means:
It’s the way I seem to go mad,
then quiet; it’s the way I look at you;
it’s the way I look away from you;
it’s the way you close your eyes and moan.

It’s the way you close your eyes
and moan that excites me.
Did I do this to you?
Do I have that power?
I must consider what this means.

You will leave me for this.
But you have given yourself to me
and I frighten you.
See how this is important?

(first pub. in Mobius, 2004)



My fear talks to me in a different mirror,
haunting my image with his,
if indeed there is a gender. 

His under-voice is a hum in my head
as though thinking to himself
but knowing I hear.

is behind me in the glass
is behind him in the opposite glass.

Why two mirrors
for this? I think. And his eyes
respond. Must I console him? I wonder.



this morning the crow, with its cold gray voice, cawed

and cawed until the second crow came to the bare pear
tree, and perched—and the first crow cawed some more,

until the third crow came, and the cawing stopped—and
there they balanced, nervously, a monochrome of winter,
three crows, passing the ornate silence back and forth.



A flow of sadness moves down the long blue sides of
her ancient body and she shudders with ecstasy.
The sampler on the wall uses black embroidery thread
only, symbolic of nothing.
The gold songbird under the silence-cloth of its cage
must wait and wait for permission to sing.
Two blue ravens sit in the stark black tree of misery
and tell each other terrible things.
The blood on the floor makes a beautiful collage
she walks through with her cold bare feet.
She washes herself under red water and wonders why
it takes so long to run clear.
Two blue ravens huddle together in the rain for so long
they turn transparent and begin to disappear.


(for my Grandmother)
A letter would come,
       formal with portent:
death’s black envelope,
       by duty sent—
blurring across the page—
      that by the time received
the news was old,
      but old news was still grieved,
though cold with time and distance—
      news of someone’s dying.
Opened.  Read.
      Responded to with crying.

(first pub. in Nanny Fanny, 2004)



How were we to know that dark was so long, and so low
to the ground; how it took our shadows to itself and hid us
from all sound; how far it went to muffle what we almost
said in time.  It was so simply every-where.  It caught us
in a mood, precisely right —precisely toned—with last
light trembling near—so like a last chance that we took.
I do remember fear—the way we some-how pulled our-
selves away and out—and how the dark snapped shut and
swallowed back.  Mygod, we could have disappeared.

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 1998-99)

 That Was Fun


Ah, sweet cloister,
shadowed stone wall
pocked with sunlight,
open doorway darkened,
the wide steps narrowing,
a potted plant on each one,
full-grown ivy—thick along
 the lower wall, the iron railing
firmly attached—no sound—this
is a silent day—not a rustle—not a
drift of motion of anything or anyone.
If you are ready to ascend—pursue the
dark unease,   climb each stair,   cross the
threshold,   peer inside,   call out,   and enter.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

A black leaf outside my door,
a rain-leaf hiding from the rain

—glossy as fear, or its opposite,
release—but to what end—

I am the sympathetic one
who loves it.

(first pub. in
The Aurean andMedusa’s Kitchen, 2013)

Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine, scary poems and pix on our Seed of the Week: Halloween! Our new Seed of the Week is an ekphrastic one:

 —Anonymous Photo

Let this anonymous photo play on your heartstrings, then 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.


This witch's familiar is a trickster . . . 
—Anonymous Photo
(Celebrate Poetry!)

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.