Tuesday, January 07, 2020

The Art of Listening

From the Wild
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


The gray light of a waking day, the world
in heavy balances—seasonal, sleep

hanging on
to yawn—

reluctant mind,

and eye,
unready to begin a new foray.

What winter does is let the mind delay
the gift of energy or downhill time.


After “Farley Mowat”, photograph by Elisavietta Ritchie, 1994

The year you were dying.
a man stood on a vast plateau of ice

and looked out over the horizonless reaches
at the vast calmness and imagined your death

as his own. He knew nothing of you,
nor you of him.

This is a later recognition.
I give it to you as a gift of human connection :

that one could connect to another
and not be aware.

It is internal—
a thought one has when

there is a silence to fill with something more
than unnamable longing.

 Alas and Alack, and What the Heck


All right.
Off with you.
You are a bird.

I shall shut the door
and pick up the clothes.

I shall redecorate myself
like an extra room.
I cannot bear it if I cry.

I shall drink wine instead.
I shall fill up my head
with anything but you.

I shall not say stay.
I have forgotten that sad word.

I shall say go
like a gift.
Whoever you must become
will know what I mean.

(first pub. in Writers’ Showcase, 1971)



She paints her lips
within the lips—
a line inside the full,

shaping the mouth
to some new mouth,
puts on two shades

of color,
pink within red,
with a sable brush.

Her brow-line is drawn
outside her well-plucked
natural brow

to upward curve
above the black line of shadow
on each lid.

The eyes remain
mysterious, aloof, proof
of sophistication—

when she’s done,
her face, matte-perfect,
powdered white.

Should it behoove
her to smile,
her smile would be

a virtual gift
upon your admiration.
Best approve. 



That woman, born of man,
must parallel him,
saying his praise for him
and causing his uneasiness—
for he travels her
from his mind to his meaning
and feels no answer for her.
She must be happy for him
Both love and denial are her name,
and he calls her both and often,
beginning with one word
and changing to the other
since he cannot remember which of her
is need and
which of her is blame.

And she must answer to him
every Sunday in the rain
where she submits to
cynic reverence
above her secret laughter.
Even though his angry loneliness
surrendered the one payment that he gave,
he has never allowed her
his great and glorious gift,
for he feels stolen from. (See how
he holds his testicles in sleep.)
He dreams her perfect
and must flaw her
with his perfect pain.

(first pub. in Aphra, 1976)

 Something Like a Memory


You have come with your gift of black roses
for my midnight joy. Now the house
is full of flowers that die after all,
no matter how I loved them.

All of my rooms are thick with their dying
and I am sad now. Flowers cannot
heal me, yet you keep bringing
these impossible black roses.

(first pub. in My Best Regret Mini-Chap, 2008)

 From Me To You


He brought the image to her as a gift. “It is for you,” he
said. “It will be anything you want it to be.”

“It is tearing like the leaves,” she sighed. “And it is
smothering like the wind that is too full of leaves.”

“What are you thinking?” he asked her.

And she answered, “I am thinking of your hands that
bring such gifts as this.”

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 2001)

 Henry Fonda's Rose



Fragment only of the word I lost.
Let it return, new and unused,

like a curse not uttered,
like a prayer there was no word for,

like the gift of silence
meant for the art of listening. 


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I carry the soul of a hawk
in my relentless heart—a gift,

by its death, for my remorse—such
a small, old grief to loom so large.


Thanks to Joyce Odam for ringing in the new year by gifting us (and regifting us, our Seed of the Week) with her fine poems and photos! Our new Seed of the Week is stolen directly from Joyce: The Art of Listening. The dawn chorus has started in our neighborhood, with bare-branched trees full of noisy bird silhouettes. But of course poets listen as much as they look, yes?—sometimes with surprising or magical results. Write about these results in your own life, and 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.

California Poet Connie Post has a new book out, called
Prime Meridian, from Glass Lyre Press. Congratulations, Connie! Check out her new book at glass-lyre-press.myshopify.com/collections/full-length-collections-1/products/prime-meridian/. For more about Connie, see poetrypost.com/connies-bio/. Connie was Poet Laureate of Livermore, CA from 2005-2009.

And local girl JoAnn Anglin makes good, releasing a new book,
Heat, at Luna’s this coming Thursday, 8pm. Congratulations, JoAnn!

Tonight in El Dorado Hills, Poetry Off-the-Shelves meets from 5-7pm. That’s at the El Dorado Hills Library on 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.


—Medusa, trying her best to practice the art of listening ~

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.