Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Posed Sleep of Waiting

Steller's jay nest on outdoor lights at the Kieth house
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

the children float away
from the grasp of their mothers

bluebirds fly beside them
singing blue lullabies

the mothers reach dreamlike arms
toward the children

the children find a circle
and slip through

the mothers’ blue and hollow
voices float after them


—Joyce Odam

(1996 Datebook: A Collection of Images: Photographs by Anne Geddes)

All over the afternoon the children are
crashing their bikes and tricycles into
trees and dying all over the sidewalk.

Eleven is lying under the sun, as motionless
as a slain hero. The leaves of the climbing-
tree make little grieving patterns upon him.

Seven and Nine wait in the prison camp by
the mailbox, trying to untie their hands before
the torture and ravish, whatever that is. The girls
giggle and squeal so they won’t be rescued.

Fourteen is reading a comic book on the porch.
Three-and-a-Half is killing all the cars with his
squirt gun and daggers.

When the sun goes down, the worried mothers
emerge from their houses and put their hands
to their foreheads to peer into dangerous twilight
and seem not to see the strewn bodies of all their
children lying all over the sidewalk.


—Joyce Odam

(1996 Datebook: A Collection of Images: Photographs by Anne Geddes)

The mud children hide inside the mud—close their
mouths and eyes, breathe without suffocation,
lean into each other, hands on each other’s
shoulders, heads touching—to please the camera.

They enter the posed sleep of waiting and must not
waken until it rains: they are dates on a calendar—
filling their page—matched to opposite columns
of July, numbered 14 through 20. Three of them

are missing, escaped or lost, or refusing to play.
The four who remain must stay at the age they are
—will never count themselves older—the pages
are stuck together now, coated with mud. Perhaps

a flood of emotion stopped here; perhaps a storm
came through the pages and sealed them shut.
No rain yet, only the swollen year—the mud-stuck
children still waiting for rain to release them.


—Joyce ODam

(Mother Ryder’s Home for Children, c. 1932)

Danny has shown me how to hold a blade
of field grass to make it whistle. I have a
skill now. I can make music of the grass.


Shy Danny has never teased shy me.
We twist on the swings. Time is not
here yet. We wait for it in the dusk.


Danny, will you miss me . . . ? Danny
will you remember me? We touch our

knees together at the bottom of
the three cement steps that lead

down to a locked door. One of us
must leave. We are eight years old.


—Joyce Odam

There they are, the innocents, in the old woods:
two lost children, fairy tale setting, danger
waiting for them. See how they enter with their
bread crumbs to scatter
on the path for rescuers who will find them.
Find them! All the forest birds soon will cover
them with leaves of pity and tender sorrow
once again. Find them.


—Joyce Odam

like the old tune of cruel nursery rhyme
its music rocking the child to sleep into the

dream water where it flails and finds
all the slow fishes who follow and stare

whose great motion fills the slow night
until the child becomes its new inhabitant

surfacing only to return again and again
in curious repetition

each time winding ever deeper into the dream water
which has mysteries and collections

the child returns with wet shells and stones
to put on the dresser, sand-gold clinging to the air

which will shine softly in the morning sunbeams
and in the stolen child’s wet hair

(first appeared in Stone Country)


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's final riff on last week's Seed of the Week: Where Are The Children, and to Katy Brown and D.R. Wagner for the pix. This week's SOW is another ekphrastic one, based on Katy's nest photo. Send your poetic, photographic or artistic ideas about the nest to kathykieth@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. And here's a new word (to me, at least) that may or may not apply: fimbulwinter (wikipedia.org/wiki/Fimbulvetr).

And don't forget The Ophidian deadline that's tomorrow, Weds., June 9. Click/pic on the b-board for info about that, and go to Mary Zeppa's photo to remind yourself about the 2nd Weds. reading tomorrow night, too!


Today's LittleNip:

I can't smell a thing can't see their pink
but they'll find branches next spring


Sweet peas
Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove