Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Nightingales in China

 Time's Hold
—Poetry by Joyce Odam and Robin Gale Odam,
Sacramento, CA
—Photos by Joyce Odam
 —Joyce Odam

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
on cue—

and if the emperor knew the difference,
I don’t remember—

although something grieved him, that much
I can recall.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 10/22/19)


—Robin Gale Odam

we play in the meadow,
in the dust of the arid dirt . . .

we build sloping hills with
furrows all around . . .

we draw our names and
pat them all flat, we draw the
rainbow, the tortoise, the moon . . .

you remember we used to play
at the beach, building castles
with tin shovels and pails . . .

you ask me if father might
take us there . . .

I look long at the sky,
remember rain . . . 
Keeping Its Shadow

—Joyce Odam

After Ereshkigal (Dea Babylonian Regent of the
Afterlife, otherwise known as Lilith). The Goddess
holds the “Tools of Justice” used as a symbol to
measure the human righteousness and to deter-
mine the fate of mortals.

Wings lowered—hands raised in offering—
I know that pose—caryatid—envile
against mortal at risk—temptation,
offered to resistance—Lilith,
goddess of the dark,
enigmatic of face,
unblinking of eyes
of her dark divinity,
her talons grounded
on the subordinate backs
of lions—force against helpless
force; by her side, two sated owls
rigid in stone—to mock and warn—
ever-guarding, mocking aberrations
of either direction—Lilith—regent of
the afterlife—ready for your knowing.
 Before Yon Waking

—Joyce Odam

Before yon waking of the difficult
morn, you will let me use one of

my perilous thought-patterns,
slowed down—

you will have me know
your will before

my own, but not

just for
intuitive guessing.

that’s how it’s done.


—Robin Gale Odam

how you follow as I feign the broken
wing, fly just a shade outside the verse,
stumble with a shudder of frozen words

further and farther from my nest—
the soundless chamber, the transparent
dust motes, the light pouring underneath
the fracture of rainbows, and whatever
is going on in the heavens

(prev. pub. in Brevities, April 2017 and
Song of the San Joaquin, Winter 2019)
 Breathing There

—Joyce Odam

I talk to you in my erratic language
while you slide into darkness—
true shadow of yourself—
anonymous and hidden,
but I thrash after you.

There is no pretense here—
I realize you are hiding from me
in your shadow guise—fitting
along the wall, and contours of the air,
breathing there—under my intrusion.

You pantomime, and I ignore you.
You emerge and flare out, in all
directions, I will not forgive you,
I hold to the vacant darkness
that has released you.


—Robin Gale Odam

Sorrow modulates down a half-note
in the measure of each passing night, now
tender and low, soft in the filter of secrecy

A devious dream vows comfort then
disappears in translation—what asylum
should wreak havoc with spittle of laughter
—this can never be a memory

An elusive moon interprets the fiction of
curiosity      I must have spilled my tea,
I remember swirling the leaves
with my finger      I probably
should not write this

I sharpen my pencil,
let the curls fall

(prev. pub. in Brevities, July 2020)

—Joyce Odam

The old poet of the beautiful sadness
locks himself in his dreams
and writes letters to his melancholy.

He broods over balconies
and haunts himself with music
from the darkened room behind him.

Even the mellowing light of his eyes
turns a desperate blue as he
stretches back into the embracing shadows.

Once in a while he loves . . . but mostly
he only remembers the old loves
that depend upon his remembering . . .

mostly the old loves fail him once again.
Dawn finds him broken and drunk on
his own sadness.  Who will rescue him then.

(prev. pub. in Noir Love, Rattlesnake
LittleBook #2, 2009)
 Where Light Flows Into Shadow

Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

And love is centered like a thought
that stays where mirrored
thought requires

to the other
addressing the outwardness

where light flows into shadow
and nothing matters
but the center


Our thanks to Joyce Odam and Robin Gale Odam for their timeless poetry this morning, and to Joyce for her timeless photos! Our new Seed of the Week is “What Raven Sees”. 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.


 Ravens Chatting Courtesy of Public Domain

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