Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Sea of Shadows

—Poems, Artwork and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Joyful, we rise like a cloud of angels
flying a straight line;
like geese in their true direction,

too high to be seen.
Like all the agonies of the world,
we are released into forgotten dreams,

like a scattering of soft white clouds
that trail like dresses
made of moonlight.

Joyful, we are released
from dreams of the troubled.
We are the solutions of sleep.

Children admire us,
then forget us.
We do not look back.

We are the sensations that come
before weeping.
The sky trembles to receive us.

We penetrate the lining of grief
until we are no longer needed.
When called back

we suffer with disappointment.
We thought we were free,
but we return

through the echoes
that never fade. We separate
and return to the memories we trust.



And the tides—as they pull again
at the moon’s urging
and the earth’s response,

the slow motion of time,
the gray window that lets in light,
yet holds the darkness.

Such is the compromise:
subtleties of shadow,
the way the cold walls shift,

or seem to.
How near the sea—
the old admonishing sea,

claiming what it claims,
come near . . .   stay back . . .

And the sea breathes in and out
with its glimmers of sunlight—
the sea’s reflection.

And the tiny window
glints out over the bay
and the day fills with strangers

changing the mood and rhythm
between window and sea
and breaking the connection.


I have floated for a century, at least, seaworthy, bearing a
scrawled message.  Loneliness deceived.  I will never reach
shore.  I have learned to love these waters.  No longer
curious to know what it means to be so entrusted.  Waves
lift me . . . from one . . . to another . . . to another . . . in
endless relay.  Every time I near a shore, some undercurrent
pulls me to its different whim.  Whoever cast me thus has
no further thought of me.  An answer now would be an
answer to the dead.  Loneliness must aspire for its own
sake, become its own journey, to that elusive horizon . . .
that unreached shore . . . .



You take the babe to the sea for baptism, or the release
of drowning—you, the dangerous mother, running into
the black shadow of the sea—chased by what . . . ?

chased by what . . . ?  and the sea, rushing to catch you,
tugs at your skirt . . .  pulls at your feet . . .  and the babe
clings to your neck in trust and fear.  How the night

thrills at your intention.  It opens up . . . opens up
its wet wing for you.  How deliberate you are . . .


The slow moment of time, the gray window
that lets in light, yet holds the darkness,

the way the cold walls shift, or seem to,
and the tiny window glints out over the bay;

how near the sea—the old admonishing sea—
claiming what it claims, whispering, come near . . .

stay back . . . and the sea, breathing in and out.
Such is the compromise, the subtleties of shadow,

and the tides as they pull again at the moon’s
urging, and the earth’s rejoinder, and the day

fills with strangers, changing the mood and
rhythm of the reverie that breaks

the connection between sea and window.


(Balboa, circa 1941)

Chugging out through the dark shapelessness of the jetty
in the nighttime boat, on tour of the bay, how can there
be such silence, swallowing around us out of the noisy
glow-path of Balboa, shivering now in night’s released
dimension, perspectively diminished in the confines of
this disappearing boat that heads us out toward the ocean—
dark, dark there—as true dark ever is, the old stars streaking
dizzily around us from the sea’s deep motion as the boat
takes on a jerky, struggling pattern; and we huddle down,
hearing the old wood creak and twist to keep its balance;
feeling the hard thump of the water spray against us; and
we laugh with nervousness—the many of us there who do
not know each other—who will become the separate
memories of this, savored and conversed about—like a
tourist’s painting, still wet from its inspiration, and bought
for its impressionistic value, catching the flavor.

         Of what stuff memory? What if we never took this
tour, but changed our mind at the last cold minute, and just
stood watching the small tour boat pull away—without this
last connective shiver—into the uneventful closing of the
uneventful summer…?

                (for Stella)

You are widowed tonight. You have written the letters.
It has been a good love. You are proud of your memories.
You are calm. All morning you have woven the light to a
clear window and have looked through it into a shared
view; all afternoon you have been practical, keeping
yourself whole and true.

You are widowed. Friends shy from this; you allow their
distance. You mark the center of a circle with a line.
It folds in half for you. Now you can weep or not—
whichever you do. Widowed. The thought is not new;
the thought is days old. You will honor the sea with the
poetry of his life. He will praise back to you.



The small sea-house grew musty in winter
with its dark wood
and its just-so window shades,
pulled even.

All the tourist noise was gone,
and the days endured themselves,
and the nights,
and the sea rolled in and out of time
with a certain patience.

The quiet light seemed almost blue
when the day closed down
and the sea-sounds muffled against the air
like a lamentation.

The house would creak and brace itself
against whatever force
was set against it.

To live by the sea in winter
is a lonely waiting:
too cold to stroll by day—
too gray its colorless dimension.
I was too young to love it then.
That would come later.

Tonight I think of that small house
with a sweet remember;
the safe domestic hum
as I bided my time to be gone from there;
the quiet rustling of the rooms;
the restless way I stared out into the night
from the gaze-back window.

Today’s LittleNip:


What can you know
of music and wind
and the vital sea.
I am all three.

Come to my places
and suffer where
the loneliest sound
you have ever heard
keeps filling the air.

When I am wild
you will be frightened
but will not go.
Then you will know.

(first pub. in
Oregonian Verse, 1969, and BLUES 1991, Piper’s House/Sandcastle Collection)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for this morning’s fine fare, riffing as she has on our last Seed of the Week: By the Sea. Our new SOW is More Than He Could Chew. Send poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.