Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Holding the Night Together

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

FEBRUARY RAIN                                             

The world, wet this morning, the trees bare and birdless at
this hour, most of the sky that thick wet gray of winter, part
of the sky admitting a few streaks of blue, puddles shining
with gray light, the houses wet through, eaves sloppily
dripping in a brief lull—a block away—strangely-textured

through the beaded window screen, the slow cars moving
like whale-shadows—and on our street, an impatient red
car slowing for undulations where a street-hogging gang
of boys animate and shout—their voices carrying—cutting
the air to distraction . . .  boys out playing in the rain . . .

        the day turns hollow
        as when children were children
        and I was not old



Faded signs would never name the towns.  It always    
rained, and there was no one to give directions.  The     
sole café was sad—like in the movies—or in the   
Hopper paintings.

A child always stood in the road behind us, bouncing
a red ball in the shadows between the few thin trees
that stretched toward each other across the lane. 
A woman always appeared in an open doorway,
watching us leave.

        A voice speaks to me,
        no one there, but I answer—
        who is it this time  ?

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 1998-99;Peripherals—Prose Poems, Rattlesnake Press, 2009)

 The Agenda


Oh, babe in blue dress in straw cradle, serene-faced
against a white pillow, floated there like a dated
drawing, the musics that you hear are shown on your
listened face—the flutes in the air—the trembled
after-space—the weeping that comes from another
room—soft tears of mother that drift and lullaby you.
You turn your face to the reaching but her grief has
forgotten you. She picks up a thread, runs it through
a needle. The room slips a shadow, cuts you free; you
float to her with your little shining life. She holds you.

        her arms so empty
        she tries to remember you
        you are holding her



Two strangers meet on a bridge, increase their distance
from each other, try to remain alone. But they have been
invaded by each other’s presence, each with his own
reason for being there, lingering at the edge of private
thought. The view can belong to one only : the roiling
sky, the shimmering detail of disturbed weather, the
changing motion of the waters beneath the bridge.
They stand far enough apart to have no need to speak.
They stare into the building moodiness of the morning
that is too early for direction, or decision. If only
the other were not there . . . what might be different . . . ?

        instead of a dream
        I am throwing away my cross—
        I am on the bridge



“Look at the moon on the water,” you said. When did you
say that? I wrote this line when I was in some memory-throe,
and why did I think it was important enough to save for a
poem? Did I look at the moon on the water? Where was it,
and when, and was it a real moon on real water, or is it just
a metaphor? It’s driving me crazy because I want to know
why I thought it was so important. And who are you—did
I make you up—did I make me up? Are we both an assign-
ment—a meaning to decipher? Oh, how hard I try to return
to that quiet place with you and look at the moon on the

        the day is ending
        with no reflection—the lake
        turns into a moon



How were we to know that dark was so long and so low to
the ground, how it took our shadows to itself and hid us
from all sound, how far it went to muffle what we almost
said in time, it was so simply everywhere, it caught us in
a mood, precisely right—precisely toned—with last light
trembling near, so like a last chance that we took. I do
remember fear—the way we somehow pulled ourselves
away and out, and how the dark snapped shut and swal-
lowed back.    Mygod, we could have disappeared . . .

        —even this red sunset
        flaking into blackness,
        —like a disposition

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 1998-99)

Where the Dark Thickens


Here is where the dark thickens. I reach in and pluck one
silver thread of light from the center to let my hand and
eye be amazed at my skill. I take it to the heart of the
mirror where the other waits . . .

                                         the other is in need of proof,
something to verify its need of existence. The light
shatters when it touches glass. The dark closes its wound.
I don’t know what has just happened.

        imagining this :
        dark thickens—light cannot see
        there are no mirrors



She is holding the night together—cold and deliberate of
being. Who knows her, who regards her, beyond blame or
temporary use? This is not to enter her thoughts with
question, but to eavesdrop from the distance of strangers.
Who is she beyond the night—so thick with meaning? The
hours pass with no condition. She is whoever she is to
anyone who loves her, holding the cold night together to
keep them from being lonely.

        the night so cold,
        nude before night’s store window
        promising so much



Pale yellow in early morning light—a silk whisper in the
room. How subtly it shines against the red book and the
old jewelry box with all the tossed things cluttered around
it. How it seems to reach toward the transposing window,
the cracked vase catching the meager light. And it seems
to move. Oh, the yellow rose seems to move when my
eyes seek it out—my room-seeking eyes that fasten—
fasten to this touch of softness in the hard, cold, early
light of this November day.

        Day begins—strange light
        transfers with color-texture
        yellow-silk, rose-scent



It was a creature made of light, tame and beautiful. It
came to her hand but backed away when she tried to
touch it. She could almost name it, though it made no
sound and had no definite shape. Still she recognized
it as something that she loved and used to own, though
only in a book that she cherished and had to return. It
appeared to her now on the edge of its existence. She
wanted to save it as she always had. It followed her
for this.

               something is watching
               you weep uncontrollably—
               only with regret

Today’s LittleNip: 

moonless night…
a powerful wind embraces
the ancient cedars

—Matsuo Bashō


So many thanks to Joyce Odam for this bushelful of haibun, our Seed of the Week! Our new Seed of the Week is Love, the obvious, given that Valentine’s Day is next week. Send your poems, photos & 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 of others to choose from.

Tonight from 5-7pm, the El Dorado Hills branch of Poetry off-the-Shelves will meet at the El Dorado Hills library on Silva Valley Pkwy. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa (Celebrate Poetry!)


Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.