William O’Daly, a poet, translator, and editor, has published eight volumes of the late-career and posthumous poetry of Chilean Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, and a chapbook of poems, with Copper Canyon Press. O’Daly was a finalist for the 2006 Quill Award in Poetry and was profiled on “The Today Show.” A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, his poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in a wide range of domestic and international journals. With co-author Han-ping Chin, he recently completed a historical novel, This Earthly Life, based in China’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. He has been awarded national and regional honors for literary editing and instructional design.
Christian’s Animal, Part I
Out of this blue and green world, I am made flesh
by the roar of an underworld creature,
just a boy shielding against wind off
the acid tongues of the fearful — what’s not been,
what should not be, what is — or maybe
it’s just a lack of certainty among the doomed trees.
I confront the violence within me, do my best to ignore
the rain and the stones falling from the sky.
I grow armor against daily lightning
and where I seek truth
I discover only shared grace.
So I learn to dance with my shame, with threats that shape
each day, the emptiness so unlike me —
my spikes of dinosaur, claws of crab,
mane of a friendly lion, my face caked with mud.
When you stare at me, you see yourself, eyes of porphyry.
When a single red tear consecrates the loss,
I have nothing to lose.
I know I am built to last, ready to move on.
I close my eyes and place a finger on the map —
walking among the misty pinnacles of Guangxi
I am older than my age. Among the araucaria
of the lower Andes I’m a boy again, patient
as ten thousand years. Someday I want to see the canyons
of Coconino County, where my memory
will surely grow deeper. I will be river
or mountain, I will be a galaxy that moves
according to natural numbers,
to gravity and necessity and scent.
Most days I do my chores but now I want to go outside
and wave to the seven dancing children
as they move across the night. I pray that one day
they’ll return and be what we no longer take for granted.
I am skepticism and epiphany,
allegory that overcomes
brutality and a simple fear of failure.
A mourning dove enters the mineshaft and I struggle.
I kiss the darkness and know I’m not ready.
So I join hands with the lost, fearing
that I’ll become someone I am not.
I step slowly, dance when no one
is around and sometimes I dream
of what I will be. I’m merely a shadow,
some part of everybody. Perhaps I could be your animal spirit
and roam the playa and the stars? I would be
family, friend, significant and other.
My doggedness is legendary.
If you know what’s good for you,
you’ll heed this warning and be cool —
the more I love, the stronger I become.
Painting “Christian’s Animal I” BY Christian Sahota
Christan Sahota, a young artist, is a student at Carmichael Montessori School. His painting, “Christian’s Animal I” was selected from the 2014 Sacramento Fine Arts Center exhibit, “Animal House,” by poet William O’Daly, to be featured in “Poetry and Jazz 5,” a performance with the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet.
Heron Dances Over the World
I watch you dance. No one is watching,
even you’re not watching
as you spread your black tattered wings
and step among the colors of the physical world —
spindly legs conjure the symbol for infinity
in red earth, in fresh blue snow and white mist.
Endangered islands bloom, the wetland fills
with mountain shadow. In a parallel universe
your reflection moves to its inner calling,
to folded granite, music of the waterfall.
You live as hidden origami, with creases
and abandon, in intricate patterns that resist
the receding shore. You circle like an equation
neither eyes nor lips can touch —motion can’t be solved
or written on the tongue. You do not stop to preen
among the battered dunes.
Your cry wrings iron
from irony, recalls the silent bells, laments the love
I’ve forgotten. You breathe closer to the swaying aspen
than to the orphaned moon and the tide’s pull.
In this dance you are born again, create like a beetle
your own being. You are possibility.
Painting “Got to Dance” by Gary Foster
Gary Foster is a retired public school art teacher. “In art I’ve always thought the process of art is of primary importance, yet we insist on focusing on the product. In the end, one can only conclude…ART IS IMPORTANT!” Gary is skilled in sculpture and colored pencils, and is just starting to explore watercolors. The watercolor, “Got to Dance,” selected by poet William O’Daly from the 2014 Sacramento Fine Arts Center exhibit, “Animal House,” was one of his first. It was featured in “Poetry and Jazz 5,” a performance with the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet.