Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Small Bridge Over Quietness

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


As you glide through the dark sleep
of your life
a strange boat passes—

slowly, slowly, through the dream.
I had to say this.
It is the truth.

You glide through,
wary of the sound and the light
which are simultaneous;

you follow the currents
and avoid what you can,
forever rounding the sharp corners

and squeezing through the narrows—
the strange boat is always just
ahead of you or behind you,

and you know it holds all your grief
and solutions as you try to lose it
and it tries to find you.

 Room For All


I push through barrier after barrier with my life
which is crowded with intention and failure.

I am huge. I fit everywhere, for I am forceful;
I am my own jungle of resistance.

Trees crowd into me—
challenge my right to be among them.

I push them aside.
As long as I am strong I can do this.

At night I sleep among
the sleeping trees.

Each morning
we begin again.



the rush of wings
through a fast mirror
made of air;

as if I am the waiting glass
for the escape of
something wounded—

a word of long ago,
finding me here for its use,
and I am blessed—

as if I am the certainty
of wisdom . . .
to let all this happen,

even as I hold my breath
through the forgetfulness of others.



This dimensionless depth, this brimming pond,
a fringe of light encroaching, squeezing in.
What does she look for in this black water,
her own reflection? She has become a silhouette. 
night redeems her.
                                   She steps in. It is shallow.
She bends to splash herself, feel the slow ripples
begin. The water pulls down, draws her into her
reflection. She has been told she will meet herself
in the future. Is this where it begins—this
small black lake of her own weeping?

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1998)   

“Listen to the sounds of waves within you.”

A bell.
A feather.
A string of white nerve.
Your mind in a frame of thought—
deeper than deep, where you are now,

in curve of blue, in shine of light. 
Don’t go too far—
stay in the real,
know where each is,
eyes closed for inner balance—

letting life go into un-life,
mystery of who and where,
the push and pull
of real and unreal—
you between.

How ancient you are.
How new.
One is the same,
except for the difference,
except for the fleeting loss of self,

except for the knowing
which will forget.
The bell
makes a sound.
The white string twists.

The white feather loses connection,
floats down as you float,
your mind
continuing its curious journey.

 Trio Exemplified


Where is it—the old sour trace of a memory—
co-mingled, more bearable than interesting; 

is it not better than grief, which is stale—like the
white bread of childhood, buttered and sugared? 

But there is not enough relevance for such
an ambiguous thought—there is the beautiful

blue flame of the gas burner where toast was
made on a held fork that grew hot to your touch.

But that is a different story—also half-forgotten
in exchange for another. What is it that was sour?

Oh, the milk in the ice box by the small piece of
melting ice.  But, is that not part of your mother’s

memory, something that shifts between the mirror
and the face, her secret-secrets, her non-tellings—

all the years of empty gaps—child and mother—
the cold bathrooms down the long and

desperate halls with their stolen light bulbs to light 
the darkness there—all the ghosts of feared things

—everything pushed back—and farther back—
and rancid in your teeming consciousness?



Here is the bridge over quietness—
this brief arch above a descending stream,
bearing petals off from some dense garden;

where soft limbs of willows bend to the water
and the deeper shadows stay back, and have
no say, and if no one comes it will not matter

to this frail bridge that has no history to prove
in this overgrown place that is not for the weary
or the fearful—that is its own now—

safe as a picture—a small bridge over quietness,
a sun-brushed arch over a rippling stream,
bearing petals and shadows over the stones.



Now we go fuzzily into distance. Our glasses
are lost and we must learn to grope—trust

the assisting hands that reach toward us—
gesturing then pulling back. There is no

such thing as loneliness. Time will not
permit. We are ever in the non-revolving.

Music wobbles when we listen for excellence.
Facades are well-structured and have proven

themselves real. How can we believe otherwise? 
There are Sundays we must fill with our own

blessings. Some presence is always there. 
Our souls whisper. Our glasses are pushed back

on our foreheads. We laugh at Monday,
finding us unaware—time blurring up to us,

fresh as a beginning— and we realize
that we have been living backwards all our lives.


Today’s LittleNip:
—Joyce Odam

Reach for light. Now reach
for dance.
Be as butterfly from cocoon.

Unfold your arms
from self’s dark room
into window-spill of light.  
Let color touch transparency.
Let your radiance
stun the mirror.

Push back
the unreflecting walls
from your bright energy.


Thank you, Joyce Odam, for these thoughtful poems and colorful flowers as we move through Advent, 2018, trying to keep a small corner of quietness in the midst of all the rush.

Our new Seed of the Week is stolen from Joyce as we think about renewal: Butterfly From Cocoon. 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.



 —Anonymous Photo
“Now reach for dance… Be as butterfly from cocoon.”
(And 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.