Tuesday, February 14, 2017

In Shadow's Promise

—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


We were on time—at a deserted train station.
We were wary of each other, now that time was
goodbye. A bird screamed out from an empty cage.

Lights were on in a small office. There was no one
there. A phone was ringing. We wanted to answer it.
There was a far-off rumbling on the tracks.

We were real this time—beyond all pretendings:
we would write each other—or we would run off
together—right now—never mind the consequences.

The clacking grew nearer—the long hollow wail of
time. The darkness shuddered. The light in the small
office flickered. We felt a rush of wings between us.

Soon, people were swarming—arriving and departing.
There were muffled words on a loudspeaker. Some-
one was being paged. We were becoming separated.

When we each disappeared, we were waving goodbye.
Time held both of us, but differently. We never met.
Somehow we passed each other without recognition.

The train was late. Weeds over-grew the tracks. Some-
one steadied the swaying light bulb in the office marked
Closed. A bird screamed out from an empty cage.



Now do I speak to you from my art of silence,
my mind mute with longing,
words pouring out of my pen in new exertion—

oh, where
is the right one! You are fading from me,
even as my mind creates you.

Wait, Love—wait for me.
I have a thing to say to you—
something about want—something about need.

But language fails. I try a red pen, a blue one,
a dull pencil—to force the words—I stab
my mind for them—shake the gray thoughts

loose. You become vague—impatient—
turn toward the vast important window,
begin to hum.

I look at you from my broken pages,
scattered all around me, my serious shadow
crumpled in a pose of yearning.

I beg you…   I beg you…
here is my little written song, so unfinished . . .
so sorrowful . . .

you stand at the window, a radiant sheet
of white paper in your hands, an opening look
on your face—unreadable.


Oh arms
Oh face
Oh body fused to body
Oh perfect moment
Oh love    Oh love    Oh love
We curve and curve and become closer
How can we be real?
You glow, and I suffer your beauty.
I glow, and you speak the agony of joy.
Oh hold me as I hold you.
We are burning with energy.
Waves of color absorb us.
We are altered beyond reality.
How can we ever be more?
How can we ever be less?


(after “The Woman and the Soul” by Ursula Le Guin)

When it was time to love, she took out the word Love
from her poetry box and gave it to him. She was happy.


in doubles we see them:
images in two’s—

duplicate connections,
shadows attached to shoes

—admiring themselves
in the glad surprise of mirrors

—face to mirrored face,
each to each grown dearer

wearing the same rapt expression
saying the same thought

as if one still might
disaffirm the other—meaning death,

their eyes becoming tragic windows
opening together

enchanted now—their dazzled love
dependent on one another



It was love, I swear, emergent
in the stricken world
into which I hurled
my broken self
and marveled
that I fell
so far—so near,
the marred perfection
of the one
who beckoned me
with longing look.
I did not care how long it took.
The hand reached up
as mine reached down.
How easily a soul can drown
in hope’s reflection—
shimmering within the mind
with no reunion—still entwined
in shadow’s promise.

It was love

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 memories.



Why are we
fallen so far
through the
dark power
of each other?

Where are you?
I hear you…
see you…

but we are
separated by
our questions.

We are
floundering apart
in words…
we are shouting into


When grief is a substitute for love
and love is spent on grief,

oh, when will the wheel
turn ‘round again—

oh, when will the memory-wheel
turn ‘round—and leave the love—

and leave the grief—
and never blame the rut;

oh, when will the rut fill in with love
and never need the grief?



…ah, here is someone to love,
someone playing a piano
out in the rain
in the way of
a wide sunbeam
claiming the music
and the one listener
who seems to be lost here…
…here is only the sad memory of
a stranger who has wandered
into this scenario,
to whom
love is not given,
only taken from the wild
reverberations of the music…
…and here is someone
looking out a window
at the piano which is ruined
by the music of the rain and the
encompassing sunbeam that takes
these pictures—these words—
and blends them into this rain-story
and makes the window glass shimmer.


I would say sorrow waits in every love,
in every vow, in every lie, well-meant,
intensified by doubt and mean despair.
Love hurts, it cannot help itself.

Falling short of expectation lets it love
the moody rain and light, the way it loves
its tears—wept often and alone.
Forget all that. Love needs itself—

despite the woe—the absence that
it leaves in retrospect. Why else give up
the power of the risk; how else define
the indefinable for what it means?



As if love wears a halo,
and it binds.

It’s not so much the aura
as the need.

What passes for love
is always

or never
what passes for love.

(first pub. in The Lilliput Review, 2006)


Like fate—they converged—from opposites.
what matter, differences? Differences attract.

They would love when fate would permit it,
briefly or forever.

Love was an abstract they believed in.
Neither was ready when it happened—

when the glamour of waiting was over.
Even that sufficed.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

You are not real, so I know you.
I call you love—
make you perfect,

write great poems about you.
Together, we are 
poetry—afloat in words.


Many thanks to Joyce, who knows a bit about love, as she celebrates Valentine’s Day with us. About the L-word, she says, “Love is such a word, such a word... lightly taken, or broodingly taken... religious love, puppy love, careless love, love as just a  surface word for anyone and anything, so easily uttered…   but, Love is love, like Gertrude's Rose…”

Our new Seed of the Week is Dark Shadows. 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.

This is a busy week in poetry, all the way from Placerville to Davis, and several readings have been added to Medusa’s calendar since yesterday. 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.


 Celebrate love—and 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.