Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Where Shadows Play

Measurement of Existence
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA

After Wistman’s Wood in Dartmoor, Devon, England

In the woods, many shadows and
many sunbeams play through trees that
guide me in, and in, till I am deeper in.

The trees grow thicker. The shadows shift.
The sunlight flickers in and out of branches
that replicate their patterns on the moving ground.

Turning circles lead me deeper—hearing now,
the snaps and rustles—the loss of place—
the alien blend of peace mixed up with fear—

the feeling that I don’t belong : shadows turn into night,
unseen birds are closing up their songs, and I am in
the center of a center that has no direction now.

 The Hearkening


when it flew so near
when it brushed my hair
when it held my eye

when it framed the air with its wings
and it heard my cry
from the numbness of my mind

and I raised my hand
for it to rest upon
but it had no need

so I held it with my breath
and it almost touched my face
and I did not move or fear

it was the pain
and the bird told me
to tell the pain to go away

we were mind to mind
with no one near
to say I lied

to say how the bird
took all the darkness
that I could not love, and could not say.



my shadow follows me
from fear to possession . . .

when I sit down
my shadow curls up inside me . . .

when I look in the image-mirror
my shadow appears . . .


After Three Men Walking by Giacometti, 1948

Walking out from the center of the mirror, I face
three directions and am at once at the mercy of
three compulsions. Thus am I split into the three

measurements of existence : I am past, present,
and future. But, still, I am of the mirror—that
mothering eye that will not diminish or release,

but only gives me a glimpse of illusion—that
bordering reach—that drifts off the fathomless
edge around me. If only I can pull away at the

exact moment, I will escape the unguarded blink
that must occur. Even now, I can feel my three
selves slip the magnetic hold of my own fear

and reluctance—that pull at the weakening
center—if only I am that brave—if only I can
break my own trance, and that of the mirror . . . .

(first pub. in Tiger's Eye, 2001)

 The Softness of Silence


A downward wing—something on the
edge of far light, its mute form heavy,

though transparent—like shadow;
like dark thought that prevails;
like worry—which is another wing,

dragging itself everywhere
until you splint or amputate the thing.



when I am once a child and once a crone
and emulate the dark of seven years
and creep into the silences alone
and fill the closet of the room
and find the room not here
and there become the ending to my fear . . .


After “Some Questions You Might Ask” by Mary Oliver

How you would approach an old theme :
  As if I knew it by heart.
    As love. And as fear of love.

How you would address the silence of stone :
    With whispers. And reverence,
    the old language in layers of conclusion,
    as if answers were never necessary.

How you would wear the mask of loneliness :
    With lace. With sequins. With feathers.

How you would walk in rain :
    without an umbrella,
    letting my whole face do the weeping.

How you would explain cynicism :
    Give examples.
    Anecdotes of humiliation.

How you would know truth :
    Truth is two-sided.
    Like your truth and my truth.

How would you enter a feared place :
    Like a memory. Squeeze through its
    small doorway that only exists from the
    other side. Feel the walls which are circular.

 Act Three

After “White Teapot”, c. 1934 by Lilian Westcott Hale

Here is where we took tea—this abstract garden—
winter now. The white trees shine.
The white grass climbs toward the hours of decline.

See how the white cloth does not tear,
layered with snow;
how the cup and saucer hold their pose with grace

while the absent winds declare themselves anonymous.
So, my absent Dear, I fear the tea has gone
cold again—as it did then—when we surrendered

all our time to time’s forgetting. Now I stare
through winter’s window to this
cold setting and refuse to know which death is mine.

(first pub. in Silt Reader, 2003)


Today’s LittleNip:
—Joyce Odam

Braving fear
   that’s ever near—
      awaiting end of day;

needing light
   to brighten night
      and lure that dark away.

What resists,
   and what untwists—
      unleashing its last say?


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poetry and photos! Her LittleNip, “Night Worries”, is a Trizad, an obscure poetry form of three tercets that rhyme aab/aab/aab. And for more information about some of her references, see:

Three Men Walking (painting by Alberto Giacometti): www.artsy.net/artwork/alberto-giacometti-three-men-walking/.

••• “Some Questions You Might Ask” (poem by Mary Oliver): www.poeticous.com/mary-oliver/some-questions-you-might-ask/.

Tonight at Luna’s Cafe & Juice Bar on 16th St. in Sacramento, poets, musicians and other merrymakers will celebrate the 37th Annual X-mas Eve Hoot-A-Bash sing-along, starting at 7pm. 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.

Our new Seed of the Week is Unexpected Joy. 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.

—Medusa, wishing you some unexpected joy this holiday season!


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