—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
Now his madwoman still is mad in her jail,
scratching at eyes and sobbing, “I’m sorry,
I’m sorry, I’m sorry . . .”
But she made a cry one-day (when they had
to put her away again, in a room alone) that
he can’t forget.
“If I let you out,” he had to demand, “will
you do that again?”
“I won’t… I won’t… I won’t…” she
“And will you be good?” he asked her.
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” she answered.
So he let her out, and she scratched at eyes
And he shows us his scratched arms and
his haunted eyes, and he ends his story,
shaking his head, “It was sad and funny . . .
funny and sad.”
IN CHINA THERE ARE NIGHTINGALES
In China there are nightingales,
or so they say,
that live in golden cages of emperors
and live obedient lives.
I heard of one who was mechanical,
perhaps to take the place
of one who could no longer sing
and if the emperor knew the difference,
I don’t remember—
although something grieved him, that much
I can recall.
imaged by night
is part glass
and part river
each night a small boat
carrying its sole passenger
is prison to the dream
each night the depth
pulls the dream
is prison to the river
LICENSE TO LEAVE
You have to become the door.
This house is not solid.
You may leave.
The walls will flutter down
like old rose petals.
The roof will lift off
like a hymn.
Your anxieties will no longer
matter to you . . .
open their cages . . .
let them fly from your possession.
Your house will dissolve
in your mind
like an old repetition
The world is holding out
its carpet for you.
Time is a long blue shadow
that wavers ahead of you
in the brimming moonlight.
(first pub. in Mockingbird, 1999)
ONCE WHEN THE BIRDS
when the birds
were young as spring
they grew gray feathers
and their eyes went dim
they brought love to my window
in little diamonds of singing
That was the season of my joy
the loose cages
of the trees
the birds are older than
all reflective distances
their song is broken glass
the bloodless leaves turn gray
and are heavily falling
(first pub. in Broccoli, 1970)
WHAT I SEND FROM ME
Gone . . .
of my heart.
Now you belong
You take my sadness
in the beak of love.
There is a far tree
in the mind.
You will be feathered
and learn to wear
the silence of my search.
O, do not sleep
in your deep eyes;
I gave you rivers to reflect
my coming . . .
O, never sleep
lest you awaken
where you were.
(first pub. in Legend, 1973)
OF HUMAN CRIES
Lest I let my heart be broken by too many truths
my spirit sullied by lies of the soul
bewildered by my darkness’s
how let the terrible light be a blinding fact
to my groping—body is proof—
it gropes and limps
through years and centuries
forward and backward
into myths and superstitions—
native to nothing but Self—a nomad
of every homeless thought to bless the wondering
that cannot free the mind of murkiness
or clear the eyes from sadness and terror
in such a prison
as one can stay imprisoned in.
NOT QUITE SO
After Young Girl Writing at Her Desk with Birds
—Painting by Henriette Browne
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.
UNDER THE SLOW BEGINNING OF THE RAIN
Caged moment. I lie like an invalid.
Sounds carry now and I am their listener.
The rooster in the cage crows just the same.
The sound is round. I look through sound
and become hollow. Fever must be like this.
Today Joyce Odam sends us poems about cages (our Seed of the Week), but also about sounds, and a big thank-you for that. Sometimes sounds get neglected in our poetry. Last Sunday I posted the John Clare poem which is packed full of autumn sounds and sound-words. Give it a try: Our new Seed of the Week is Autumn Sounds. 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.
—Medusa (“Sounds carry now and I am their listener.”)
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.