The Gang's All Here
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
THE ALL-NIGHT BIRDS
All night the birds
sang against the carrying dark,
sang for themselves and each other;
sang against my sequestered heart—
bittersweet with listening. They
sang for their love
and not for mine.
Mine had been surrendered to some
lost song—kept in the sheltered dark
in a little dark box that lay
in a safe place . . . in a safe place . . .
in a safe place.
(first pub. in Ship of Fools, 2003)
Birds and Flowers by Shen Chuan
(Two Butterflies on Lilies)
At night, on the dream river,
where has sleep taken me?
What is meant by waking?
I have been of two lives—
bewildered in both.
At night—on the dream river,
I meet another self,
with passage between the two.
Then what is meant by waking?
If one becomes the stronger,
does one release the other,
created by night’s twisting river?
Should I not want to return,
would something still hold me?
What, then, is meant by waking?
If I had a choice,
would something relinquish me?
At night—on the disturbed river—
would there be a waking?
Beulah and Rose
TIME AS A PAGE WITH NOTHING ON IT
This is the sky of winter—this slow and heavy
gray, with its weight of ghostly birds that sift
into each other’s cries—and lose their way.
THE WINTER BIRDS FLY NEAR
Pleasure 1926 by René Magritte
Nothing is certain, though the birds are significant, and
the girl is mysterious. And the tree. The sky is merely a
backdrop. It means nothing. There is no explanation.
The girl is emotionless, examining the bird in her hands
that has quit flailing its wings. Hunger is suggested. Or
even a disinterest beyond the moment. Behind her, the
tree moves a bit, an illusion to establish her stillness,
which is absolute. Her eyes are expressionless, looking
down at the bird. The other birds freeze into meaning.
The sky moves, shifting the white clouds around. The
tree darkens. The birds shift into shadow. The girl can-
not stop looking at the bird in its frozen helplessness.
Maisie and Daisy
Peaceful Harbor by Kathy Mitchell (Mouth Painter)
In a little sea-town, the white boats; only their reflections
move with the deep movement of the water. Diluted colors
take on the floating colors of the sky; match the strange
absence of sound in the indeterminate hour. Is this a mirage
of memory—a stopping of time that waits for this? Why
such stillness? Why such quiet: where are the people; where
are the birds; where the slow-moving shapes of fish in their
element, swimming through the white clouds and the shim-
mering masts with no curiosity? Who but the very patiently
dedicated could capture all I remember from that long ago?
I grow homesick for the reality in the mirage.
Purple Number Five
In little steps across the day—small
measurements to mark the way from
wing to shadow in helpless flutter,
for the dream that’s ever waiting there . . .
The birdless days (which days are they)
are seasonless, or not yet here.
We check our sadness. All we wanted
was to fly in the heavy, laden sky.
Love was spent on little wars, the ones that
grieve for centuries. The devastations were
extreme. We tried to blame it on the dream.
It was the hopeless. Hope was ours.
Today the birds returned. The trees
exulted with their singing. Once more
we listen, listen loudly. All we wanted
was their being—all we wanted all along.
BOY DRAWING WHITE BIRDS
He draws a pair of white birds in the air.
They do not fly away. He has them trained.
They simply rise and hover and as keeps them
frozen there—yet fears their vacant eyes.
The day is white—a blank page for his art;
the art is his : he lets them come alive—
to feel their lift. He adds migrating swans
to free his heart and give life ownership.
NOT QUITE SO
Young Girl Writing at Her Desk with Birds
—Painting by Henriette Brown
Let not the cage
confine the thought, door open,
bird released, much like a poem, uncaught.
To trick the word, prepare another word.
Coax it. Let it surprise.
Say thank you.
Begin with daydream. Begin with stare.
Begin with pen raised over page.
Wait for page to rustle with excitement.
The page lies flat. Refuses. Songbird
becomes Muse—pulls your attention
to its nearness—does not sing.
The cage hangs on the wall,
shares its emptiness with the quiet room.
Song waits. Poem waits. They will happen.
THE CIRCLING BIRDS
Bald Mountain by
Herbert Saslow, 1920 (American )
birds of pure light
claim two trees
on a desolate peak
* * *
sheer rock mountain
offers two trees
to the birds of light
Our thanks to Joyce Odam as she sends her birds soaring in our Seed of the Week, Blue Skies, White Clouds. Our new Seed of the Week is an ekphrastic one; see the photo below. And don’t forget to think metaphorically: wearing many hats, hat in the ring, and so on. (Remember “she set her cap for him”?) Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.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.
This Week’s Seed of the Week.
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.