Tuesday, March 29, 2016

So Many Stars

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I dance with the ghost of my sister
she is me
I am one

it is summer
and childhood again

we play catch
we play hide and hide
in seeking twilights

we laugh together at secrets
we sleep together in dreams

when I am angry at her
she disappears
I cannot punish her

only I am punished
by my envy
by my only-childedness
by our tearful mother
who lives only for me

I twirl in the fates of my sister
who is featureless
and has no existence
except what I give her

I pull her after me
in homesick years
in worlds where I am a stranger
and she has outgrown  me

(first pub. in Calliope, 1990)


Put me here, put me there,
lift me, place me
where you want me.

Partner me in loveless dancing,
through impassioned violin
and shadows in a rage.

Let me lure you—
to and from you,
bending to you, then away.

Lift me, twirl me
through the blending of dismay,
of have and wanting.

Never let the closing kiss
be real,
never let the eyes convey.

(Earlean Sonnet)

Tonight they’ll dance again the dance of pain
and twirl their dresses till their dresses tear
and loose the pins and ribbons from their hair
and flail among the shadows in the air.

It’s not so much that they are mad, or vain,
the way they love to dance with wind and rain,
and rend themselves to grief, and not explain
the ruin of stillness they leave everywhere.

It’s that they can’t remember, when they wake,
that they are not as fragile as they seem—
that they must ever resurrect a theme
that dreams of ghostly partners to forsake—
who never understand the empty ache
that they are but the remnants of a dream.


(after Girl with Still Life, 1919 by Alexander Tischler)

A balancing act, this wearing of a hat as wide as a
tray on which are placed the things of the day:
reminders of toil, or the waste of time, or only
the fancied weight of flowers—

wilting now. She is poised and steady—her long
hair ribboning down her back, her face expressionless
—part of the still, a prop for the hat which almost
weighs too much.

But she supports the teetering hat with its two goblets,
three knives, three apples, and half-empty wine carafe—
Tischler’s object-meaning for the Girl with Still Life.

(after Rainy Night by Childe Hassam)

Here is a man in a scratched-out opening,
a stick figure only—but there,

in a clump of despair. How is it
he has affected me so?

I care for him—
trapped in the crosshatch darkness.

I want the artist to release him—
captive to misery—unable

to back-out of the opening
or step forward into a positive

dimension. What do I recognize
in him? Is it myself? Did I do this—

give him this hopeless suffering—why do
I linger at this page—as if only I can free him?


(after Rainy Night by Childe Hassam)

All we know is the rain now.
It streams over the umbrellas
into the street reflections
which splash back.
Everything is stalled.
Something has delayed
the people in the rain—
a sound maybe—
or a mass memory.
The rain pours the harder.
The umbrellas bob and tilt for space.
The creaking sound of a carriage
moves slowly through.
Someone inside the carriage
weeps silently behind curtains
The people part to let it pass.
The night encloses.
Whatever was decided this day
is not what happens. The streets
waver with upside-down umbrellas.
More and more umbrellas crowd in
among the others—
moving like an undulation of distress.
What rumor has brought them here
to stand under the relentlessly
pouring rain?


(After Evening Rain on Shinobazu Pond
                     by Shio Kasamatsu, 1938)

old blue shadows
lone figure in the rain
orange street lamp
upside down
lone figure
silent    lonely 
only a revenant to memory
blue trees whisper
rain    rain

the small bridge crossing
the same wet night
the narrow railing
for leaning
for looking into
the shimmering water
the wet umbrella
still bobbing
in the shrinking distance
the slow blue night
still murmuring,
rain     rain


In a puddle of water—the sky—
clouds confined to this small rain lake,

the brief flight of gulls
that do not stir the surface,

that do not seem displaced or strange
though they fly upside down;

and vertigo is not the point of this—
that such a shifting vastness

can be caught—fragmentary
and deep—if one looks down to see—

and does not break
the image with their own reflected feet.

(In slight revision from publication in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1996)


I remember stars in the black night . . . but
who can count the memory of that many stars?

I use the abstract words : millions :
billions : but do not  know how many this is.

I am that tiny child-speck . . . dizzy from
looking up into the sky from the sidewalk,

sounds hushed, the chanting of the other
children fading into a thin ringing of voices.

I am lifting into the sky . . . dizzy with seeing.
I am a slow twirl of wonder . . . so many stars.


Today’s LittleNip:


Anywhere there is rain after a dry day of
long hot hours, with the slow clock
turning on its upside-down numerals,
as if time made no sense at all
and has forgotten
how to read or hold onto its private reasons
for winding around like that.

I would like to fill the town with rain,
for I like that sound,
and the wetness and the coolness,
and how it suits my thought of it
in summer, which has grown
long and tiresome, and I feel heavy as a stone
at the edge of watering, and all the
trees are dusty and whispering for rain.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for this morning's fine poetry breakfast! Our new Seed of the Week is April—whether it's April showers, April Fool's Day, National Poetry Month... take your own take on April and send poems, photos or artwork on this (or any other subject) to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs.