Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The City of Lost Love

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

After Leonara Carrington, Self-Portrait (II)
"A L’Auberge du Cheval d’Aube", c. 1938

The room has blocked me. The curtains are a white frill
draped at a dark window, night crowding in. I press my-
self against the shadows and become the wall. Dreams
engage me. I am wearing my riding costume to ride the
white horse of night, though it is rocking on its wooden
rails and stays aloof from me. I let myself go wild—
wait for the mother-beast to give me her instructions.
She appears and prowls the expanding room, then
hunches back and sniffs at the air to warn me. Every
night is like this: I stiffen on the ruffled chair and brace
for transformation, dare not look at myself, though
there is no mirror here. The horse is a wall-shadow
now and the mother beast is gone. My crib stands
empty on the other side of the room. The dream chair
holds me in its satin arms. The window floats off into
a dreamy distance of its own.



What is so lonely as a chair
in broken light by a cold window,

a chair that rocks
or stays still in the settling dust,

a chair with a rigid back
and no arms—

maybe a curtain blowing back
and brushing its legs.

Let the dark corners brood—
there is enough light

for the chair—
even if only moonlight.

After “Man at table” by Thomas Cowperthwaite Eakins

The man at the table in the dark is counting his sorrows.
His life has not been fed. There is no one to serve him. His
heart has fallen from his sleeve to the disconnected floor.

He forgets to breathe. The shadows leave his shoulders and
float around him. He cannot trust the light to return. There
is no path to his eyes. We are free to surmise which way

his life will turn. He does not wonder aloud. He has drifted
inward and taken the dark with him. Only now do we
begin to realize how long he has been gone.



Pure lines of blue moon shadows
on the road—crossing the light—
the dark.

imaging horizontal,
stillness moving in optical illusion.

Nothing unsettling :
this is road, mysterious;
here is silence made, of beautiful light.

Dark remembers this—
is fortunate for timelessness
caught by moon-shadow on the road.


     Take a list of words—any
          words. Run them down the
             page.  Force a connection:

red rim in winter
water over leaves
hallucinations in glass

     Now stare away, toward light
            or toward dark. Open or close
                    your eyes. Force a connection.

wild willow weed
grope of envy
hollows in the woodwork

     Play the shadow game. Enter   
           and become, or pull away and
                  disappear.  Force a connection.

a singing in the shadows
a bell distortion
the howl of a monkey

     Now wait for the mother-bird.
           Listen to the flying.  Feel your
                  heaviness.  Force a connection.
Red rim in winter, water over leaves—hallucinations
in glass. Wild willow weed, grope of envy—hollows
in the woodwork. A singing in the shadows, a bell
distortion, the howl of a monkey: force a connection.


In the garden, O fated one, I sit with my cup
     extended and empty, waiting for the wine
     of rain to fill it to the brim and overflow.

I wait until nightfall. I wait until dawn. I wait
     through all the promises with my waiting.
     And my hand does not tire, O fated one.
My face is serene, O divine one, waiting for
     the expression of your approval—the
     dark mirror of your face into which I stare.

The twilight shadows creep across
     the ground, and up the hem of my robe,
     and even myself, to conceal the waiting.
O, I wait forever, with patience, which is all
     I have, and in which you are timeless.
     Even so, the dawn brings more waiting.
My loyal cup waits for the rain, O fated one,
     empty and thirsty and sure of patience,
     though my hand now trembles
     as does my mind in the concept of waiting.

What do I see in the shadows that touch so
     lovingly around me;  what trembles there
     with confusion and brings no news of rain?

After Beautiful Rafaela, 1927 by Tamara deLempicka

How round she is,
contouring herself among the shadows,
arching into the light that is so aware of her. 

How easily she poses in her roundness,
distorting for the artist
who exaggerates her further—

intent on the position of her arm,
the fingers of her hand,
the twist of her body—

the way
the calf of one leg
presses into the other leg to round her hips. 

A scarf of red silk slips from her lax hand
as she turns her head
and closes her eyes against her upward arm.

The attentive light moves
underneath a swaying ceiling bulb,
though the dark stays still—

still, she makes no indication
that she is
being observed : she knows she is beautiful.



Cacophony now.
Deep thrill.

Dark in the shadows:  Source.

And I, pulled in,
dance there,
whirl in black-sleeved arms,
catch under red light.

My white blouse burns.
The sweat on my body gleams gold.

I am changing as I dance.
Blue faces love near to kiss.

I gasp from the drumbeat to the soul.

I am shimmering in the
dark—part of mirror-blur.

Mosaics watch with broken faces:
Discordances of motion.

In the glass distance
I dance miles . . .

timed to the shadows . . . looking back
from heart pound center
with no pain . . .

guided and tireless in
black-sleeved arms.

After “Wearing the Collar” by Charles Bukowski
Black apples, Love, is what we share;
black seasons, Dearest, to compare

with who we were and who we are,
black reasons that have left no scar.

You sit quietly by the cat.
Dearest, I admire that :

One for one, and two for two.
That is me and that is you :

black cat purring at my hand,
nothing to misunderstand.

Darkest shadows to embrace
the walls, the room, each other’s face.

How we love our dark tableau,
neither one now free to go,

I with apple, you with book,
each of us with tranquil look,

now we’re married, with no ring;
we with only love to bring :

Black polished apple, sleek black cat.
Dearest, what is wrong with that?



Now I feel distance settle between us.
I have won the drift.  Birds enumerate,

their dark gold eyes struck by light.
Wires hold their shadows and extensions

of shadows that loom into evening.
The day’s length is over and night begins.

We have taken another path from each other.
The word I am after

still eludes me.
I cannot put it in this poem about loss.

Perhaps you are saying it to yourself.
Somehow we still receive light

from a flurry of birds
that take to the gray air from the high trees

and thrum over the house to dot the field
with their complexities—

enough diversion for us to leave our quarrel
and exclaim our marveling at this. 


I could not take love apart like that—wrist by wrist,
and sob by sob, into eventual silence.

I could not bear its shadow in my arms toward my
own shadowless dark.

I could only make it suffer within me like that stone
I used for my beginning.

My heart weighs deep with grievings—I am so old,
and memories lie—

like a terrible map over my sleep. My dream worlds
are the landscape for my stories.



In the city of lost love there is only one blessing and
it is yours. Even the shadows will coil softly about you.
Flowers will ignite at your watching; their petals will
swell and fall; your breath will smother when you try
to speak. Do not speak. There is no way out but through
the mirrors—the mirrors will resist you. The walls are
but thick draperies that rustle and murmur in the moist
background. The lost ones who find you will bring you
with them into their desire.  You will not remember
them, but you will sob to find them, leaning against you.
Nothing will last here, though it will all begin again—
exotic as guilt. In the background, a Dark Being with
frail unfolding wings will fly out and hover above you,
and you must protect it from leaving here or it will
lose you.

(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen,  5-17-2013)


Today’s LittleNip:


Gathering up the old fruit of those
delicious trees . . . Scattering
the bird shadows before they form
their own starvations around us . . .
Hunger is not the only message here.


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poetry and original art! And the rain goes on… Has it been 40 days yet?
Our new Seed of the Week is, in spite of the rain, “Finally, Spring”. 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 from to choose.

—Medusa, checking in late today due to Internet problems.
Celebrate 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.