Tuesday, July 23, 2019

No Backward Look

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Traveling all night in a driverless car. Dim figures beside
me. Strangers. Staring straight ahead. We are in a movie
we watch. We are in a long dream. One of us is speaking.
But no sound comes out. We are tense and desperate, as
if we know where we are going. The car is floating over a
dark road—as if in the sky—as if under water—as if it is
not really a car. It has no vibration. It makes a soft sound.
Somewhere a clock says 3:33. We note this and begin to
waken. Night has allowed us one more effort to escape the
direction. But we turn and speak to the listening dead for
explanation. But it is only a memory, elusive and far. Later
we will try to describe it.


Haunted Hotel del Salto Columbia

Many stairs climb this dark.
Many levels of climbing
to reach the sunken door
at the high wall with the
tanglesome ivy
and the long
sheer fall.
give no welcome.
This is from your dream,
the old dream where
precipitous stairs
rickety now
with a thin,
deceptive rim
of light along the railing. 
The dark is as dark as dark
can be. This is your now or never.
There is something familiar here,
something familiar, but without
love—only the far-off crying—
that formless something that you
must rescue out of yourself.


After “The Message of the Rain” by Norman H. Russell

Anywhere there is rain after a dry day of long
hot hours with the slow clock turning on its
upside-down numerals, as if time made
no sense at all and has forgotten
how to read or hold onto its
private reasons for
winding around
like that.

I would like to fill the town with rain, for I
like that sound, and the wetness, and the
coolness, and how it suits my thought
of it in summer, which has grown
long and tiresome, and I feel
heavy as a stone at the edge
of watering, and all the
trees are dusty and
for rain.



Sister, let us dream together in this long and sorrowful
night. Lay your head down next to mine.  Close your
eyes while I watch you close your eyes to see if you are
real. Then sleep, and I’ll watch over you with my sleep.
Then dream, and I’ll dream with you.

Sister, wherever you are, do this for me. This long night
is growing even longer. I feel the disappearance of time.
Do not empty the mirror between us. We were never
twins. I was the first and only, but you always came
when I called, as I call you now. Sister, I cannot sleep.

The night has grown restless with my insomnia. I read the
same old book of weariness and watch its path of words
go across my eyes—but it does not tire me.  Come read
to me, Sister—let me hear your voice inside my voice.
I need you again, dear ghost. Once again, I need you.



Sister, where were you when our mother died?
I hope you were there with her,

holding her hand
and listening to her breathe. 

I hope she slipped away without knowing
she would not waken this time.

Sister, did you materialize for her—let her
see you—know you as my old creation,

talk about my need of you,
my sending you to her, bearing this poem?


After Room in Brooklyn by Edward Hopper

Let the dimming hour fade down past the window
of the room where the motionless woman stares out
at the sky. Let the day close down so the weighted sky

can release itself into the ragged skyline with its miles
and miles of building tops. Let the flat and closing wall
of air erase the facts of the room that briefly define in

the lowering light : one last cold patch of sunshine on
the floor : the sharp white curve of a vase with its white
flowers : the woman with her back turned to the room

with a stillness so complete she might be someone’s mem-
ory, or something conjured from regret. In a dark
and unreached moment, she will rise from her chair

and before she turns from the window, she will draw
the shades—or not—as the city sky settles down
and night will enter and fill the empty chair.


After Photograph by Eadweard Muybridge

. . . as far as the cold white moon can see
that mountain range
that cold gray sea
that tiny ship
adrift in time
that endless sky
through which one final soul must climb

. . . what loneliness is quite as deep
what vow to break
what promise keep . . .
oh, human mind
that wants to stay
and wants to go
and dares not pray
to emptiness, or its rebuke

. . . what is the scope in such vast reach
beyond what eye
and mind can know
one brilliant moon
shines like a clue
horizon gone
the mountains strain
the waves repeat
time’s ship has vanished . . . far or deep



So where we go is all pale again
as if the landscapes were done by
a dim artist with no love for color.

When we go to those places
our bright clothing fades and
grows softer
and we blend against the softness


All that was harsh of our minds
is mended and forgiven—we would
mention this
but words are forbidden.

Are we less happy now?
No. We are serene.
We love looking, though we
close our eyes to save this pleasure.


We will not come home, you know;
we have become the new providers
for all other distance:

We bring it our sweet nature—
our small adventures—
which we tell in the night
as dreams we pass among each other.

(first pub. in Famous Last Words, 7/88)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Of all the places I would bide
and would return to when I need
to heal—to rue the roads I took
where all the detours led too far

with only me for guide
and nothing there to heed,
but all that I forsook
without a guiding star—

to die inside
without a creed—
no backward look
without a scar.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine words about our Seed of the Week: Where Shall We Go?, and these beautiful photos! Her LittleNip is in the form of an Anasil (an inverted Lisana): abcd   abcd   abcd     (4-ft)   (3-ft)   (2-ft). For “The Message of the Rain”, see blog.ncascades.org/odds-and-ends/the-message-of-the-rain/. And go to www.biography.com/artist/eadweard-muybridge for more about British photographer Eadeward Muybridge.

Our new Seed of the Week is “In Gathering Shade”. 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.

An addition to the calendar for Saturday, 2-9pm: The Francisco X. Alarcón Book Celebration, sponsored by The Francisco X. Alarcón Literary Arts Foundation (and others). Poetry, music, art, dance. Special guest Lucha Corpi. FXA Literary Arts Foundation, 1702 Albion Place, Davis. Admission: $10. 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!

 Room in Brooklyn by Edward Hopper, 1932

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.