Caley O’Dwyer’s poems appear in Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and others. He is a winner of an Academy of American Poets Prize, The Dallas Morning News “Images” contest judged by Yusef Komunyakaa, a two-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, and a recipient of a Helene Wurlitzer grant. His first book of poems, Full Nova, is available from Orchises Press. Caley’s current poetry writing project, Light, Earth and Blue, is a series of poems written in relation to the abstract expressionist paintings of Mark Rothko (1903-1970). He teaches writing at the University of Southern California.

Untitled, 1949

What is the self without blue
but blindness—terrible, blind self
always beginning again,

delaying the meaning
of its name? In the frame,
blue runs between

multiple shades of black.
Underneath, and barely visible,
red, like fog emerging.

The self, once buried,
in the other, transforms,
gathers the pattern

of its hurt.
Hurt that it was,
silence it will be.

In the language
of touch, of elision
and gesture,

the other comes.
Blue gathers red and red
runs beyond the world of skin

till all the Earth is through
touch included,
and the soul gives in.

—from Orange Coast Review


First there are the sands.
There is the sea and the sound of wind.
You live, and it is in this corridor
that you remember. This narrow passage
between the whitewash and palms
is where you become.
Gulls sweep endlessly to the north.
They are what you know of travel. Sure
wayfarers, they glide
and age. From your perspective
there is no summer, though you know
that’s where they are heading, even
through the pale winter light you can barely see
beyond language. You know
what you were born to do, and see how stars
accomplish fire at nightfall.
One day you will wake and hear
no wind, no ocean. You will hear,
white sands, still palm, blue heron, the letters
of each word traveling from you, like the gulls
flying in groups up the remembered coast.

—from Full Nova


Leave the others. Leave
the boats in the green water.
It will be June. In the cool house,
sleep under the tree.

Come night the burning candle.
Come day, the opening dream.
Soon, the white of the tree
will reappear.

We are ourselves
in the cool house
of old doors. Mornings,
sunlight in the glass.

Winter snow shifts
over the limbs.
We remember the others’ laughter
and are glad.

Yes the white flowers in the vase. Yes
yellow flowers in the bowl.
And the grapefruit and pear.
Dish of new strawberries

in the window. Leave them. Leave
the boats in the black water.
It will be May. In the cool house
dance under the tree.

—from Full Nova

Caley O'Dwyer Moonday poetry reading

© 2008 Caley O'Dwyer

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