Tuesday, July 30, 2019

In Dusty Shadows

Surreality Explained
—Poems and Visuals by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

ANOTHER DAY (A Rainis Sonnet)

You ask me why the windows go so dark;
I tell you there is no more light to lose.
You pull the shades to their old measure-mark,
I watch the night take on its somber hues

as one last flock of doves flies from the trees
with flutterings of white that seem to spark
and then go out. We feel the moment freeze.

This is the day we entered with such praise.
It dwindles down like all the other days.


(After Nude in the Sunlight by Renoir, 1876)

Nude girl in sunlight—
flickering shade—the way the light
enters the leaves with touch.

Sunlight always loved her,
even as now,
more than a hundred years later—

forever golden in sheltered leaves
back-grounding her.
And her composure—

knowing her power,
the distance of that look,
captured by Renoir.

 Lost and Found

(After Portrait of Gerti Schiele, 1909)

She has become a model for the talent of her brother—
sharply edged, as if with scissor-marks, where she has
been cut to a collage—but she is tired of posing,

her confining layers of clothing forever falling in a
careless crumple about her feet. Her colors smear. She
bends her unfinished face toward her shoulder.

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 2008)



She strolls the garden
with its ever-winding path

two peacocks strolling alongside
through the blue shade

and the small blue trees—no one
watching though she wears

a rose in her hair
and a long red gown—her mind

on her thoughts
the peacocks endear themselves

leisurely beside her
she murmurs lovingly to them

and they seem to be listening—
a small stirring

of something
following noiselessly behind them.


(For Ann)

Turning a corner onto your street (long ago)
close to twilight, and summer, a shade of
blue light under the sunshine—or better,

over—since what I saw was part of this :
the goats—I still don’t know how many—
kneeling their delicate white legs down

to the ground in a slow sequence
as of a single confirmation, and I felt
a chill of time in that moment—

a surge of something at my heart
to witness this, and it was
as I remember (long ago) I swear.



     My sad son is somewhere in his life, being
lonely. The house of his childhood is sold and
gone. We speak about it, ask how we feel about
the “Home” of it, and say it’s okay.

     He cooks for his friends tonight. We con-
tribute vegetables from the dry and waning gar-
den and speak of recipes with the bags and boxes
standing full between us.

     He starts up his father’s motorcycle and
they talk to each other through the noise of it
in the dusty shade of the grape arbor. They talk
about the snap and the power.

     Neighborhood children stand around and stare
at his long blonde hair. We fill their questions
with our clanny eyes. We are all long-haired and
blonde. And we do not dress for others. We are
dressed for the twilights that come early and cool,
that come sneaking in with shadows.

     Behind us the tall dry corn patch rustles.
We make up a silence so we can hear it.

     He says he must go. But he sits for awhile
where he is, touching the handles and knobs of
the motorcycle that used to be his, staying awhile
in his moodiness, that he says he will get over.

(first pub. in P.O.W. Mother Poems, 1980)

 Ways In, Ways Out

In the painting, the children are asleep in the quiet afternoon.
They lie across each other like tossed dolls—two rumpled girls,
having worn themselves out talking and giggling.

And now the hour loosens its light around them and they stir. 
They realize I am watching them, though I have been sitting
here drowsily making sketches. It is as if they knew that I

would come and find them there. It is how they look at me.
They rise from their sweaty pillows and move, dream-like,
toward me, their eyes holding my eyes, their faces strangely

serious, and when they reach me, they take my hands and draw
me back with them toward the shaded porch. But we must
hurry, for a border is closing in around us—a feeling

only—for the yard stretches clear to the formless and spacious
end of itself. I do not speak to them for I do not want to break
the curious spell of their acceptance of me.

They pull at my hands to get me to go faster. The day’s light is
changing and they seem alarmed, insistently tugging. They
keep looking up at me, and I realize they are pulling me from

a familiar distance that has separated us until now. I move with-
out sensation. For a moment I wonder if I should be afraid of
them. Now we have reached the house—still not

having spoken—where they pull me inside the old screened
porch where we lie down together—three time-blessed children,
asleep in the quiet afternoon.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Once a weariness came
upon my being
and I surrendered to a yearning
and I sought a tree I knew
that had vast shade and quiet
and I brought myself to its healing
and lay on the ground
looking up through its branches
and silently moving leaves
and I slept for a long while
unwinding and renewing,
under the flickering sunlight.


Thank you to Joyce Odam for capturing such shadowy tones this morning in our Seed of the Week, “In Gathering Shade”! Our new Seed of the Week is Palm Trees and White Sand. 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.

Today from 12-1:30pm, visit the American Haiku Archives with former Sacramentan Dr. Judy Halebsky, Cal. History Room, 900 N St., Ste. 200, Sacramento. 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!

 Portrait of Gerti Schiele (Postcard, 1909) 
by Egon Schiele

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.