Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Did We Leave Behind?

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Lately we find ourselves amid the ruins;
evidence carries little to admire:
some skeletons, some echoes, and a wide,

accusing silence—which we must decipher.
Wrinkles in the air suggest a winter
that has lingered past the season, and we shiver.

Even the shadows struggle, caught in cobwebs;
nothing shall free them from neglected corners.
Such are the memories of stones and mirrors.

You argue one, and I suggest the other.
Shatters of light still glare and blind the eyes.
Shatters of love still seem to lead the way.

The dust is heavy and the way is narrow.
Even the darkness has a certain shimmer
as it settles down and bids us stay, or go.

It is enough, we say, and wonder why
we poke around through all this spill and clutter.
What did we leave behind that needs us now?

(first pub. in Sow’s Ear, 2000)


(After “Orrery” by L.S. Bassen)

Not memories, but something clearer, like ghost-thoughts
out of oblivion—that guise—that promise. How we would
wait for them, recognize their power over mere words that
praise truth and nothing more.

At what angle was I, situated to be so relevant at being
both part and separate, refusing the inflow that moved me.
Surely a dream held me out of my own evolving scenario.

Color had texture as well as nomenclature. It was not a
geography of skies, these vast subtleties of color and
distance—my face an eager release—that expression.

Nothing is describable to the inarticulation of desire. No
want is answered—only the discussion of it—serious and
sad, the mind at hunger.

I knew it was time to withdraw if I had any such power,
away... away... out of one moment into another—another
here and now to examine, for mystery, or idle notice as of
noting time on a clock.

Sounds were movements, textile and audible to the touch.
I should have been afraid. My mind was awed and curious.
I was in privilege. Not memories, but something clearer,
like ghost-thoughts of oblivion. That guise. That promise.


They stand around
in a random grace,
each silent face staring at
another face.

Some of them
fill a dark doorway,
others the harsh light
of the courtyard.

The children among them
wait to play,
but this is a day
for staring and waiting.
Someone is going to come.

Is it the one they know?
Is it the one who was once
their own?

Will his name be spoken?
Will he say to them,
“I am glad I am home?”

(first pub. in Poetry Depth Quarterly, 1998)


After “Thursday” by John Moore

What is so empty as
a day
after the day that is spent?

An empty room implies as much.
Old light gone.
New light slanting in.

The view is the same—the chairs
askew—vague emptiness
that waits for the new occupant.

The high windows keep the view
to themselves—the city—huge
outside the bird-height windows.

Thursday—another day between
two others—few clues—except for
the well-kept memories of the walls.


Oh, lonely town, with no one in it, only the shifting
glass of lonely windows to reflect each other; only

                                   the wail of hollow music, a

lonely conductor in an empty hall, conducting no 

one, only the one recording he keeps playing, for

                               its echoes, for its lasting, day-

light turning into night with the far-away sirens, lost
and failing . . . how do the native memories fare,

                                       staring in and out of staring
windows, with only the abandoned shadows listen-
ing, oh, still listening.


Never mind the ghosts
of this town. They stay
for themselves—per-
fecting and protecting

        their memories. If you had
        lived here you would remem-
        ber with them—but not as
        endlessly. They would resent

    your presence now.
    Nothing impedes them—
    they are many, as true
    as one is one. A place

is loyal if you loved it. Here is where the
elements move freely and ruin takes its
time. We have time and guard it from
intrusion—here we have no need to haunt—

                  here is a blueness that we love—                     
                  shadows of light to keep us real                      
                  in the unbroken windows. True,
                  we are vain. We help each other

    watch the years—how they
    recede and stay and there is
    no difference, and we never
    have to leave.

The old inhabitants left us to
the loneliness that they
no longer wanted…
Go away.


in the guise love always takes. So good to look upon
with eyes that you can’t refuse. And the mouth, the
mouth with its lies, so beautiful to hear, like comple-
tions of the self. And the hands, the hands with their
tremble. How you loved those hands. And remember
how you danced together, body to body, perfectly.
The music loved you. Oh, it was wonderful, this
beginning, the competition, the surrender—which
to which. Where draw the line that is an answer.
True, love had its moments—love, the survivor of
itself—and even when it’s finished—all those



Nights are filled with such sorrow now, and are
so long. And I write lines to match what they take

of my attention. And I consult windows and walls
for the little sounds of things that shift and rustle

and tap my fears. And I create holes of thought
to sink into instead of sleep and there find dreams

I cannot waken from. And you are not the cause;
you are just gone. And I write memories to this—

real or not real. I have pretended my life long enough.
How can I relinquish this . . . ?

(Asilomar, 2004)

Gnarled tree, I fell in love with you today
—the glowing way you held the
morning moon in the structured curve

of your rough branches
—the tender way you waited
for her to slowly dim and vanish

—the sharpened way the quiet
morning light outlined you against
the wilderness setting of Asilomar

—among the hundreds more
like you—but of them all,
you are the one I love

—the way you simply
compel my look to linger
as I walk past—tenacious there

—against all forces,
shaped by the sea-winds,
bent in their one direction

—on this October day,
I love you with such a reverence
that I want to address you as Thou

—though you are beyond
such affectation. Old tortured tree,  
You,   Thou,   have altered me.



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.


Today’s LittleNip:


that drift of memory
catching on snags of thought

dissolving in
thought’s intensity

no longer what it was
no longer true

something to lose
the way it loses you


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s musings on our most recent Seed of the Week, Memories I Can’t Shake. To read L.S. Bassen’s poem, “Orrery”, to which Joyce refers, go to bluefifthreview.wordpress.com/2013/11/30/fall-quarterly-sky-november-2013-13-22/.

Now it’s time to kick off the week of Halloween, so our new SOW is Guising (see scottishstorytelling.blogspot.com/2015/10/guising.html). Of course this, like any other SOW, can be taken loosely, such as the disguises we wear on an everyday basis. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. (Don’t be shy about sending Halloween poems of all types, either!) No deadline on SOWs, 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 your jack-o’-lantern at.

Yesterday I posted a poem by William H. Simpson, but I can’t find much about him on the internet, other than that Harriet Monroe published quite a few of his poems while she was editing
Poetry back in the '20s. If you know something else about him, send it along to kathykieth@hotmail.com.



 Celebrate your own poetry by sending poems about Guising 
or other themes of Halloween this week to 
kathykieth@hotmail.com/. 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.