Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Time-Shaped Jar

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

Brazenly based on “Hedgehog in the Fog” by Yuriy Norshteyn

When I was out walking in fog one day, I met a materializ-
ing old horse with sad brown eyes. He was an old dim pho-
tograph of a horse. We surprised each other, each having no
particular destination. He cautioned me about the semi-
darknesses in life. I concurred to his wisdom and concern.
He was such a beautiful old brown and gray horse. ‘Kinda’
like us’
, I said, and laughed. He snorted and stomped, and
stirred the air into silver particles, which whirled awhile
then settled. We talked about the word ‘beautiful’ and de-
cided it was a beautiful word and should be allowed.  With
that solved, we talked some more about the fog, how thick
and long-lasting it was. ‘Like sadness,’ he said. And I shiv-
ered and felt the sadness of the fog—and the beautiful
leaves started falling—falling silverly around us, like tears—
beautiful, old, silver tears from an invisible tree. We em-
pathized a bit longer, having taken each other at face-value
and appreciating this brief intimacy of strangers. An evening
breeze came up—scattering the leaves— and the old horse
stomped his hooves, and I stomped my boots, and the fog
did a fog-dance around us, and thickened even more. And I
felt a sad loss—such a sad loss. 


strange as snow
your hands as holy as leaves
and your eyes unnatural
where do you learn
what you know

I am falling to the earth
in single patterns
I am not surprised by this
it is how
you look at me

(first pub. in Arx, 1970)


“In a past life, I was Nostradamus.
Nothing. I  mean nothing, surprises me.”
(leaping silhouette of man against sea and horizon)

Oh, this is such a night.  I am the dance of joy. I own
the very sky—the sleeping sea. 

I can hold the light.  Everything fits my leap and
waits for me to return through gravity.

No one remembers me as I was—and as I am—
pure self, released from others. I own the moment.

The horizon is unimportant—nor the seamless sea
beneath my levitation. For this I need no praise.


I was held
as still as a killed
flower in a hand.

I trembled into the vastness of eyes,
but that was when
I was young and old
and taken by surprise to be alive.

When I discovered
I was made of glass
because the mirror
held me thus and so for my own stare,
I knew I could be broken.

Even so,
I shook my petals endlessly
and felt the quivering in the stem
and felt the perfume go.

I used to dance
to feel my body know its music
and its self,
and I was strung to sound
like string to minding-dolls.

How many times
I longed for hands to measure me for love . . .
but what I touched
is strange and wrong
and not remembered anyway . . .

oh well—
I never thought I’d last this long.
I put my moments
in the time-shaped jar
and felt the emptiness
fill up around me
like a death.

But that was when
I loved myself too well.
I fell toward the water when
the sea pulled free
and I became
the endlessness of me,
feeling my roots pull backward
towards earth.

(first pub. in Epos, 1977)


Three of them today,
white egrets
in a field of winter,

bright in the sunlight
that came down
upon them in a dazzle

of surprise—three stillnesses
at different angles
of attention—

we almost let our eyes
not see them—
they were that brief—

we were
that swift with driving by
in our red car,

talking about the many nothings
talk is full of—

three egrets
in a still, brown field
between the encroaching houses.


Because we are done.
At once.
Sudden and silent.
Not even time for a last no.
A little bit mysterious.
Even for us.
But that is how we surprise each other.
Old quarrels are best.
So well known
we can say them at the drop of a guard.
Just now:
Your splendid rage
causing its reaction
your eyes like a sermon.
I am no Amen.
I go into the room at the back of my mind
where I rock in the dark.
Each night I kill a moth
because it is frantic in the lamp
and attacking me in its blindness.
Even when we try
we are unable to repair
all that is valued and broken.
Just now:
This dangerous look between us.
No compromise. 


It was the year before white birds
flying over black dream-forest
where secrets lived
and echoes were last heard.

This was strictly rumor.

Clocks were wound
and then left to run down.
There were no survivors of the ruin.
It was a dead mirage.

We followed anyway—
hope fluttering before us,
white-winged—deliberate—and slow,
as though

there was never any reason to hurry.

we found Hope—
floundering behind us—lost and anxious—
and surprised.


Today’s LittleNip:

BIRTHDAY (font, flexure FLEXURE)
(want!) J.O. (j.o.)
—Joyce Odam

Oh, look, Lady.
You are old.

Are you ready…
are you surprised?

Do you celebrate
or pour deep lamentations


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her colorful poems and zentangles on this, the cusp of the Winter Solstice (12/21, 2:44am). What is the key to this season, to any season? To happiness, love, life…? Our new Seed of the Week is The Key. 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 the burning candle in the snow that is poetry!

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.