Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A White Singing of Birds

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


A play of sevens, and the soft air of night.
A chair by a window.

Light lying across the rug.  A sound from the
street.  Rain-swish.  Moan.

A superstition touching my shoulder.
You in your world, feeling shadow.

A letter slipped under a door.  A key in the lock.
A rocking chair that won’t rock.

Anything old that matters.  A certain tone
in a certain silence.

Some new beginning cutting its string.
A pair of scissors.  Shining.

All endings brought here for mending.
Like socks.  A basket of thread.

How many times must I tell you not to do that,
I say.  You stand behind me.  You stroke my hair.

I cut the moonlight into the shape of curtains.
I wait for the shadow to release me.

Soon I will shuffle cards for solitaire.
I will lay them out on a patient table.

Soon I will mention something to the mirror.  I will
release my image into the light-switch by the door.



Dancing Child—Dancing Child,
I watch you learn yourself,

dancing to the
full-length mirror,

locking eyes with
Mirror Child—Mirror Child,

dancing back to you.

(first pub. in DADs DESK)

After “Ballet of the Woodpeckers 1986” by Rebecca Horn
in these mirrors
stab glass images of

restricted flight
the in and out of light

the positioning of each to each
so no mirror can escape the other

the corner

all are level
with ceiling, walls, and floor  

walls coincide
with depth and spaciousness

how can light
decide which way to go?

can mental birds    get in?
go through?    get out?



An unfurling of white umbrellas
from a great height of weightlessness
on a day of spent light—moving
like ripples and bouncing the raindrops

over the wet streets. It was a camouflage,
I thought—a great mass of winter souls
in migration followed by a white singing
of birds that were invisible.

I felt my window tremble with joy
at the spectacle as the floor swayed 
and I wondered how so many
floating umbrellas could fit the space

of my watching. My own umbrella
stood dry and folded beside the door
with my keys and things that I needed.
I wanted to be down there among them,

but did not want to give up my view
as the umbrellas kept touching
and parting in their maneuverings—
occasional bits of sidewalk showing through.

The height deepened and left me no time
to decide—the window opened
and the room-light poured through
and my umbrella flew into my hands.

After “The Singer” by Wassily Kandinsky (Woodcut)

Now the singer, in her shining dress,
stands beside the black piano—
basking in the moment—while

the audience—in shuffled waiting,
hushing now in expectation,
waits for the singer to sing.

In his black tuxedo—adjusting
his position—the pianist,
lifting his eloquent hands,

waits to strike the first chord of music,
his concentration on the keys,
foot ready at the pedal.

Poised now, he looks toward the singer
who nods from her peripheral,
the hall in hush—expectant.

Pressing her hands together, she waits
for the full intro.  (This is what
she was destined for, she muses…)

The mood is set; the moment captured:
accompanist and audience—
all forces gathered.  She sings.



My mother is a real woman in a real world. She is beau-
tiful. Her name is Annie. She has auburn hair. Her eyes
are browner than mine. She likes shredded wheat for
breakfast and tomato-beer just after. She cheats at rummy.
Tommy cheats, too, and they laugh together about how
they cheat at such an easy game as rummy.

They go to the store in a taxi and take a taxi home. They
lock their door. They talk down the intercom when
somebody rings their bell, saying, Who is it?  Who is it?
until they know.

They share one ashtray that they empty often, the old
blue deck of cards stacked loosely between them on the
table where they sit across from each other most of the
time. What they talk about I do not know, but they are
always talking—or she is—and he is always saying how
she is always talking.

Enclosed in a world small enough for the two of them,
they have each other, and this they love. They sleep
safely together in one bed. When he wakes up and
coughs—and coughs—she goes on sleeping. 


I touch the no-man’s-land of your face.
How strange. Even your eyes speak
gravity of distance. I dare not ask. I use
the desert of your mouth for answer :

this time I go away—find where light
meets dark—enter where I fit and become
new—you stare for awhile at the point
of vanishment, then turn away and enter
your own opposite direction :

I soar through the distance in my blue
wings—dream flight, maybe—I’m not sure.
I have already fused light and dark
to lock time in place, name it mirror and
go through as image. Always I approach
you as I recede from myself. Remember?

Your face turns back into my touch—a
map of readable and unreadable messages.
Your eyes are blue. Then gray. Then green.
Your cheek hollows with shadow.
Your brow retains its deep furrows.
It is no longer safe to love you.



Again I misread the signs—land us here in this town of
nowhere to begin knocking on doors. Of course, no one
will answer. This is Ghost Town personified. I brace for

your accusations, your heavy, insulting silence, suggest
we wait for daybreak, or inspiration—suggest we calm
down—look on the bright side—fold our map and wait.

Again, I misread the signs—your eyes, magnetic—the
rear view mirror lengthening its view, the cold, dark
silence settling in— and I know that here is where we

belong. This is it, I say— stepping out of the car—the
night air brittle with expectation, and I take my purse
and keys and leave you sitting there, tuned to the radio,

turned to the side window, checking the side-view
mirror, and I walk toward the only building
that seems lit, however dimly, to see if it
means its All Night Vacancy sign. 


Why smile when grief is ever near like a lost, lovely
woman who stays at the edge like a bitter memory,
singing her slow, dark song in your mind,

like the blues you play in your heart instead of sweet
hymns—that even those glow in the dark like an open
piano in cold moonlight—a white curtain pulled back

to let night breezes in, while you sit in thick silence,
and watch the shadows, and listen to the footsteps that
go back and forth outside the door

that you will not open, but only listen to see where
they go, and you hear a laugh from somewhere that
sounds familiar, and the sad piano begins to play

all by itself—some ghostly song, but whose hands
are on the keys? And you realize they are yours, and
you close your eyes and let the pain relieve.



It’s easy enough to send praise into an aftermath.
What we receive of light is the other side of dark.

Who shouts in the hollow becomes echo there.
Here is a word I can use, wet with meaning.

Tears are the salt of grief, joy, and humor. Hollow out
the womb for the lost child. Name it Sorrow.

We are at the service of our souls
which are at the mercy of our lives.

In the stone light
gray thought is manufactured as shadow.

Two who are unnamed
go toward love with fierce anticipation.

The hotels are empty now. They served the lonely
and the lost in their transitions.

It was the gulls, so starkly white in the gray field,
dark skies roiling inward.

Reading it all wrong, that word again, about to break,
like a face left in its mirror before it got old.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

the song of the keys
as he walks
swinging away from his body
clanking against him
rhythmic to his
powerful unlockings


Our many thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine photos and poems today as we move into the new year. 2017—who would believe it? Our new Seed of the Week is "Starting Over". 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 plenty to choose from.



 Celebrate poetry, with its infinite chances for new beginnings!

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