Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Loved By Shadow

—Poetry by Joyce Odam and Robin Gale Odam,
Sacramento, CA
—Photos by Joyce Odam

After “Seashore Idyll” by Heinrich Kley
—Joyce Odam

       On that god-forsaken, barren length of beach,
there was nothing left to do but make the best of
things.  He was ugly, but maybe she could make 
him beautiful, for she believed in lies and spells.

       “If I love you, will you become beautiful for
me?” she would ask each time he came ashore.  
And he would say he would.  She was happy after
that, and each day at the same hour she would lean
against her lonely sea-rock, and scan the gray 
length of the sea from one end to the other, and 
wait for him to come out of the water.

       And he would lumber out and sit on the sand
in all his grossness and sing to her with his loud
and mournful voice which carried so far away it
broke beyond their hearing.  The sky would churn
with stormy echoes then settle back to the flat and
desolate gray monotony of this place.  And he
would droop his head again upon his chest in 
some old melancholy.

       She would listen until he was through, then 
ask, “How can you be so sad when I love you—you 
who are so beautiful to me?”  And she would turn 
aside and weep at her own boredom and sadness.

       But he would sit on the sand in all his ugliness,
and he could not lift to her his heavy arms or his
massive head, and he would sigh from his heavy
heart and tell her that she must come with him, 
then, into the weightless sea, if she must have an 
answer they could both believe.

       And she would lean against her old sea-rock
and think of this and wonder how it would be if she
followed him into the wide gray unknown water.  
Until the sun went down she would think of this,
while he would bask in the low cold western light
and make his impression in the sand for her, which
she would later curl into and sleep.

(prev. pub. in Parting Gifts, Summer 1998, and
Medusa’s Kitchen, 9/29/20)


—Robin Gale Odam

she got her lashes wet
one tear    the cue

she closed her eyes and wept
the star    the moon    the darkened sky
the moon    the star    the far black sky
the veil of night    the closing sky


—Joyce Odam

He needs capital letters to hold him in.
He is afraid of the women in his poems.
He would seduce them, but they are evil,
Dressed cheaply, and with eyes on him.
He almost makes sonnets for them,
Fourteen unrhymed lines of dread,
With lots of punctuation, all the
Lines beginning formal as fences.

He writes the women sleazy.  He stays
Aloof, on a high poetic bluff,
Cold sea-wind in his hair,
A pure observer.
They are new and old to him, with no names
He can mention, since he does not know them.

(prev. pub. in Cimarron Review, July 1977)
 So Long Ago

After The Mother of Loneliness by James Barkley
—Joyce Odam

She stands in a gray despair on a
cold black porch by a cold black sea

posing for no one that she loves—
not even sure the sea will have her

or that she will have the sea. A last
rim of light on the rail behind her

would define her next. A front-lit
window seems to pull her back.

She does not shiver in the swiftly
dying light—turning one way

and then the other—incompleted :
nude of winter, loved by shadow.
 The Lost Shoe

—Joyce Odam

now when he sits across the table from you
in the red velvet lounge
he looks around the room to find out
if he is important you are telling him,
look, I have this rose
growing in my stomach like a
child its thorn is killing me

um hum, he smiles,
right at you
since he thinks that that blonde is watching
and you tell him about the way
the black leopard you have brought
keeps tangling its ribbon under your chair
and that its gold purring
is driving you up the wall
since you
cannot stand purring
and he nods his ripply gold smile
and purrs yes at you

and you tell him you have brought
poison to put in his soup
and he throws back his head
so his favorite laugh can tickle the room
and you die a small regret
right there in front of him
to make your point
and looks at you wise and says, really?

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2/25/14; 7/12/16)


—Robin Gale Odam

Trace of red on the horizon,
my heart bleeds—the road was
long. You are gone.
Old Keepsakes

—Joyce Odam

Here I live in this old ugly room behind
this noncommittal door that locks and
this stingy window that opens to
the flat near wall, where I look out
to see the shadows pass.

If this is metaphor, and I am room, then
let me tell you more . . .

I am the hallway and the stairs that I
trust myself to climb. I am the mirror
and the wall, the ceiling light and bed.
I am the sleep, I am the hour after hour,
and the rent I pay.

If you are curious, and I have need to
analyze . . .

then I collect old curiosities and more;
I gather evidence of theft, the souvenirs
of crime and fear, all compromise and
promise, all surrender that gives in.

If you are horrified, or do not care . . .

I have no news for you. I am this cold
and ugly room, this noncommittal door
that locks and this mean window opened
to the flat near wall where I look out and
see the shadows pass.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 5/2/17) 
 Looking For Words
—Robin Gale Odam

In a drift of memory, such a word
as simile—not exactly simile, but in

such a current as the soundless night
that draws me to a whisper of petition,

I pull a gauze of holy words over me
—a shroud in the solitary deep of night.

(prev. pub. in Brevities, December 2016)

—Joyce Odam

These simple stick-trees of winter
without their first leaves, too frail it seems
for the winds that tear

at their nervous gesturing
at the gray air, being merely a fragile part
of the cold landscape

with the empty bench and the stark lines
of a fence leaning against
whatever it was meant to separate;

and sometimes a lonely figure
will stand there
in the flat texture of the day,

a shrinking silhouette,
looking outward,
featureless, bareheaded,

hands in pockets of a coat,
seeming to be—itself—a tree of sorts,
as the day darkens toward evening;

and still the figure stands
and watches whatever is there to gather
for the mood of such lingering;

and the trees,
that look like a child’s drawing
of such trees,

shudder into themselves
with the toughness
it takes to survive such desolation.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 12/9/14; 2/27/18)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam

I keep you because
if I let you go
I may have nothing more
to say.

(prev. pub. in
Brevities, January 2020)


Joyce and Robin Odam have written today about relationships, toxic and otherwise, and we heartily thank them for today’s poems and for Joyce’s photos.

Our new Seed of the Week is “Revelations”. 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. And see every Form Fiddlers’ Friday for poetry form challenges, including those of the Ekphrastic type.

Be sure to check each Tuesday for the latest Seed of the Week.


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