Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Spells, Teasery & Other Sneakiness

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


She wears peach satin that falls in soft pleats and folds
and hangs to the rug with a whisper-sound as she moves—

as she moves slowly toward you, raising her gun
and making her explanation in a flat dry voice. You have

caught her in the act, and she is guilty. The story
is coming to an end; and you are about to believe her

confession, or disbelieve your own eyes and absolve
her. You love her, of course, and that is why everything

goes in such slow motion. It is a movie. It is a movie.
But is it only a movie? She is still coming toward you,

in peach satin, rustling her gown and pointing her gun
at your heart; and what is she saying—what is she saying,

that you can’t hear—her eyes in a deliberate, set stare—
her flat dry voice droning and droning as she fires?


After Mystery by Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

Her name is Mystery. She has no past. She always
looks at you through a bleak expression—

disembodied in room after room of mottled light—
the time of day never important. When she vanishes

again, the whole room glows, and there is a sound
like a curtain falling back against an open window.

It is not so much her presence, as the lack of it
when she is gone. She would make you her own

and you would surrender whatever she says is hers.
She always leaves behind a musty smell of flowers.

(first pub. in Ekphrasis, 2001)


After Landscape from a Dream, 1936-38
by Paul Nash (1889-1946)

It’s not that I love this dream, but I can’t get
through the mirror to the sea. The sky is a flat
and painted blue, and a huge white cloud is in
the way. A pane of glass becomes a cage. A
boulder of fire creates a second, retributive
sky—blood red and near—and a lone dark
gull is flying right at me.

A frame of fear surrounds it all and I don’t
know what to do. I can’t awake, and I cannot
sleep. Mirrored in metamorphosis, I am turn-
ing to a fear myself : my own face holds my
feathered face. My arms have turned to wings.
My shoulders hurt, and my mouth is cruel. My
frozen eyes do not believe this metaphor, of
which I am both abstract mystery and indefin-
able clue.


(An Abracadabra)

Dare we trust conditions of this masquerade?                 
Eyes of warning watch us in our dreamlike dance      
shadow-hidden with their masks removed they stare 
as if we were not figments—as if not made                       
of our illusions—as if their eyes could guess                     
beyond our air of mystery—as if they’d                         
reached the end of midnight while we still refuse           
to go back to our other selves—too afraid—                  
too changed by costume’s guise, wanting the romance, 
loving the pretense, the brazen way we dare                 
test rules Forbidden-Love has never obeyed.    

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2000)



How long ago was that?
There was the sensation
of holding.
So necessary.
Life was in a hurry.
So was time.
We were in its grip.
Swift. Intoxicated
and uncertain.
What did we know?
We held each other
in the dark mysteries.
Was this love?
What did we know?
We were practice.
Tremble. Young,
with the loneliness
of the young.
We were pulled away
into the swift years.
We forgot each other.
Our faces would fade.
We would become shadows
reaching through shadows
and find nothing but
our own selves
dancing to the mirror.
Music returned with this.
Music came back
to remind us.
Oh, vanished ones,
of my memories,
which side of memory
are you on?
It seemed like love.
Time is aloof, suspended
somewhere like a spell
put upon those
who believe in spells.



How could I know you’d leave me with lament.
A suffering word. I name you “My Lament”.

Even when we promised with sweet words
they always leave me with the same lament.

Love hurts, and hurts again, and won’t forgive.
Thus tragic love becomes its own lament.

Blame is the power. Blame becomes a tool,
offense—defense—the woundings of lament.

After the loss, the ashes of the loss,
come all the shroudings of the new lament.

Defenseless now, surrendering is next,
hammering now, the old and new lament.

How can joy and sadness reconcile
when all becomes lament, lament, lament.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)



As if drawing an outline of a body
in chalk
in the rain . . .

As if fading back
into doorway after doorway as if
you were guilty . . .

As if you have simply come
a moment after
and have nothing to tell them . . .

As if you have simply risen
out of the mediocrity
and become famous . . .

Now they are looking for you.
They have questions,
you were last seen . . .

The fact that this is your time and place
to be an innocent bystander
is wrong . . .

You are suspect, even though you saw
no one pushed, or fallen—no one stabbed,
or shot—no one merely ended. . .

You have simply come
a moment after
and have nothing to tell them . . .

You will have to pay for this—
you will remember it all your life,
the chalk,    the rain,    the resemblance . . .



It’s the very randomness of some thought that
flickers like some wing that gets caught in wind-lift,
brief as thought’s own teasery, grayly touching
surfaces and depths;

it’s the strange elusiveness of the teasing—
shifting—as we reach for it—just as it fades,
that we seem oblivious to, and just miss—
mysteries like that

always leave us wondering what was really
touching, moth-like, there at the mind’s own margin,
fluttering the emptiness with its vagueness,
gathering away—

some thought, briefly important—some thought that we
almost capture—fingertipped—fleeting, just missed.
Losses like that—whisperings, side-looks, movements,
stillnesses disturbed—

hauntings—thoughts that nag at us when we lose them,
thoughts we failed to recognize; thoughts that snag on
deafness, blindness—maybe some passing poem,
honoring itself. 


(Reading Alain Bosquet)

A walk through the mystery that is sold here,
make it your own.

Buy it now
Pay any price. Take it home with you. 

It is real enough
to walk at your side like a beautiful woman.

Name it nostalgia; it will love you.

It will slip its arm around your waist
and walk in harmony with you.

It will not miss its show window where
it lived in admiration.

Name it souvenir.
It will be all you have to remember.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I want bead curtains to hang in my doorway
like those in old movies, tinkling softly
when someone brushes through.

(first pub. in
Brevities, 2009)


 Landscape from a Dream
—Painting by Paul Nash
For more about this painting and Paul Nash, go to 

Thanks to our mysterious Joyce Odam today for her haunting poems and beautiful artwork about our Seed of the Week: Mysteries! And what form is most appropriate for this SOW? The Abracadabra, of course! For some dandy info about it (sometimes called the "Magic 9"), go to thepoetsgarret.com/2014Challenge/form11.html/.

Our new Seed of the Week is Spring Chickens. Are you, or aren’t you? (I sure ain’t!) But spring is the time for regeneration, so write about it and 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.

This just in: this coming Friday, May 31, 7-10pm, you are invited to the Walt Whitman Bicentennial Celebration at Sac. Poetry Center, featuring readings from Whitman and related writings by Kathryn Hohlwein, Julia Connor, Susan Kelly-DeWitt, John Allen Cann, Traci Gourdine, Mary Zeppa, James Anderson, Mary Barbara Moore, and Stuart Canton. Violinist Morgen Prestel will play some period music. Other presentations will be made as well. 25th & R Sts., Sac. Host: Patrick Grizzell. (There will also be the usual annual reading in the Old City Cemetery among the Civil War veterans graves at noon that day.) 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, celebrating poetry and its sister, art! And those feisty spring chickens, too….

—Painting by Odilon Redon 
For more about Odilon Redon and his Mystery, go to

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.