Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dancers Beyond Midnight

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

(Rondeau Redouble)

There’s a late café in a sleepless town
where customers linger, as I used to do,
over coffee, to let time drown
the sorrows down to just a few—

well past midnight—feeling too
blue to go home—take my frown
to the sad mirror, blue to blue.
There’s a late café in a sleepless town

made of myth and memory—bone-
colored walls, seeming askew
with crooked calendars, days counted down,
where customers linger, as I used to do;

numbing the days to be gotten through—
maybe feeling their own pages torn—
a place like that.  Maybe you—
over coffee, to let time drown

whatever pulls you in—alone
in some quiet window-booth to pursue
your ramble of thoughts, as if to hone
the sorrows down to just a few—

as if you solved a thing or two,
then finally notice how light it’s grown,
the day beginning right on cue.
Everywhere such need is known,
there’s a late café.



he comes to our parties
with his supplemental wine

and sits like a
poured glass of laughter

spilling with private joke
at our saddest poetry

tears come to his eyes
and he shakes his head

and sighs
and laughs again
when it’s time to go home
to his midnight wife

he looks into the room
from the door

where he busses
the hostess

who is holding the tragedy
back from the light

and as if it meant
something more

he says with
his loneliest voice


(first pub. in South Carolina Review, 1972)


time of no shadow.
we are vertical.
reverent to the silence.
standing in the sun like scarecrows.
our black-to-the-center eyes
holding the landscape together.

at midnight
we become flesh of darkness.
holding our arms out like we do.
stars on our fingertips.
night clouds in our hair.
our eyes deep with the suns of that hour.
darkly beautiful.

(first pub. in Poetry View, 1976)


After “Transformacion En El Paraiso”, 1987
by Freddy Rodriguez (Dominican Republic)

blue eyes of red flowers
staring into
eyes of viewer

vase without water
roses without stems
a floating red feather

the white vase shining
under the floating roses
that used to be a dozen

a surround of blue
that is only a dream
of its midnight self

one huge red flower
with a deep blue eye

burning with transformation


Blue mottled street
or so
smearing down
to the pavement
the light
begins to shift into gray,
fusing with the grainy dawn.



The life of those shadows—
silhouettes against drawn shades,

dancers beyond midnight,
lovers oblivious to the voyeur

who strolls the empty night,
haunted by whatever haunts him.

Their music drifts down,
and now the watcher

is part of their love—dancing
all by himself in the moonlit yard

amid the wakened roses
and the rustling garden shadows


And when you touch the nightly rose,
gone strange with dusk, will you suppose

its petals melt or turn to dark
against your hand’s electric mark?

The rose, illumined, is my own,
picked from the center, midnight-grown.

(It’s only moonlight—not a spell
that makes you dizzy and unwell.)


Since you approve my ancientness,
come with me now where I undress

before the mirrors that enhance
with such young smile and such young dance.

This is my garden—this my room—
the center—where pale roses bloom.


So move toward me with the word
I said was all—I swore I heard—

and speak it once against the flaw,
that I may turn to you in awe

and chant your name with all my death
returned to me (surrendered with

the tear I gave to get you here).
Come, Lord of Roses.  Come, my dear.

Come deep with me, come long, come far.
Come all the way from who you are.

(first pub. in Kansas Quarterly)



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 minichap, 2008)


Midnight. Tuesday. The night bird flies in out of the
dark, the window opening for it. Outside, the flock,
dipping in welcome. I hear their wings glide. I sense
their shadows. I feel their eyes, bright as glass. They
fill my window—swarm in. They lift me through the
dark release. I am only what I imagine.

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 2004)


After “The Fiddler’s Son” by Eugene Bradley Coco,
Illustration by Robert Sabuda

In the circle, the boy with the fiddle is making wild music
to the night, the night full of shadow-forms, dancing their
feet and clapping their hands. The boy is blind and does not
see the manic circle spin around him. It is midnight and music
is not allowed. Forbiddings come toward him on sooty wings—
Angels of Suppression that drop down into the shadows at the
far edge of the circle. The boy opens his white eyes and seems
to recognize them; he smiles, and they come toward him with
an effort they resist. Too late they realize the heaviness of
their wings. The music has taken possession of the boy; he
fiddles until the cold night rings and jealousy is appeased. All
night he plays, until the first soft gray of morning, when he
will lie down among the dancing forms that fade exhaustedly
around him—even the tempted angels in their ragged wings.

(first pub. in Parting Gifts)

(An Abracadabra)

Dare we trust conditions of this masquerade?                 
Eyes of warning watch us in our dreamlike dance—       
shadow-hidden—with their masks removed—they stare 
as if we were not figments; as if not made                       
of our illusions; as if their eyes could guess                     
beyond our air of mystery—as if they’d                         
reached the end of midnight while we still refuse           
to go back to our other selves—too afraid—                   
too changed by costume’s guise—wanting the romance, 
loving the pretense—the brazen way we dare                 
test rules forbidden love has never obeyed.                      

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)


Today’s LittleNip:


I do my
own calendar.

Death Month.

Which day?
So close to midnight

Three time-zones


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her thoughts about midnight, our most recent Seed of the Week—and unsettling thoughts those are, indeed. Joyce knows how to usher us into Walpurgisnacht, that’s for sure!  Our new SOW is Memories I Can’t Shake. Send your poems, photos and 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 more SOWs than you can shake a memory at.



(Anonymous Photo)
Celebrate poetry and the memories—good, bad, full of holes—
that it can bring to the surface.
And scroll down to the blue column (under the green 
column at the right) for info about upcoming poetry 
events in our area—and note that more may be 
added at the last minute.

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