Monday, August 16, 2010


Octopus's Garden
Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

1. Focus:
This broom.
Archaic pattern.
Simple design.

I take it up…sweep
the floor…the cobwebs from
the wall…feel the task…
aware of it…devotional.

2. Women swept dirt
before there were
floors, with a branch
of leaves, perhaps;

I consider the hems of
their long dresses…
on dirt streets…on
board walks…their

long dresses
must have frayed out
and never
washed clean…

3. I took a picture
of my broom once, full-
frame, up close, to show
the coarse straw,

the red string
binding, the ant—
and called the enlargement:
Yellow Broom With Ant.


Good Monday morning, and thanks to our contributors today! Don't forget the Sac. Poetry Center reading tonight at 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm, featuring Taylor Graham and Michael Read.

John Wolf, newsletter editor of Fox & Quill (online edition), invites your submissions: For info about the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club, go to

Cynthia Bryant, Past PL of Pleasanton, moved away but continues to publish online. She says “Poet's Lane is alive and waiting to hear from you, your poetry organization, your poetry, your bio, your comments, your poetry events, contests, submissions and your good news!” Check it out at

And don’t forget our new b-board feature, over there under Sam’s Snake on a Rod: go to Sam's curtain-rod snake (right near the top of Medusa’s skinny blue box) and click on any of the categories listed, which will then appear in this cream-colored box where the daily posts usually are. Check 'em out, then click the "back" button on your computer screen, or click on Home at the bottom of the cream box, or click on Home under the curtain rod—any of that will bring you right back to business as usual. Enjoy!

Once you figure all this out, click on Calliope’s Closet for some ideas and writing resources, plus what I believe is a comprehensive list of all the Seeds of the Week we’ve done. (Let me know if there are more.) There are also two of Medusa’s Bunched-Up-Panties Rants, one about what I think are the roles of forms and triggers in a poet’s life, and the other about Haiku. I used to be very hardcore about haiku and how Americans abuse them, but in my old age I’ve mellowed—though occasionally I do go off on some poor helpless poet… Anyway, check Calliope out. And then click on Medusa Mulls for the cheeky Medusa painting that DR Wagner found me—plus the RR24 article I wrote last December, which I’ve posted as a jumping-off point for the discussion we’re all going to have very soon about the future of Rattlesnake Press. My eight months "off" will be up Sept. 1. Where do we go from here?

Celebration of the Arts in the Blackhawk Plaza in Danville this Saturday

•••Sat. (8/21): A day of art, poetry, dance, music, and wine tasting presented by the Alamo-Danville Artists' Society ( and the Blackhawk Plaza Management ( During the Celebration, the Poets Society of Danville will give two poetry readings at The Read Bookstore in Danville (3630 Blackhawk Plaza Circle). The schedule for the morning and afternoon sessions are as follows:


Charlie McCauley
Cher Wollard
Robert Eastwood
Vicky Richardson
John Barry
Robert Shelby


Cher Wollard
Charlie McCauley
Connie Post
Kevin Gunn
Robert Shelby
Robert Eastwood


—Joyce Odam

(based on “Family Album” photography of James Newberry)

What we are seeing here are the meager necessities
of love—the things that work—the things
that matter: the art of the commonplace.

Maybe it was winter then; maybe it is winter now.
Such things are important: the jacket
hangs on a hook beside the skillet and the funnel;

the heavy nails
are useful for the accumulations of the kitchen
and hold the backing of newspaper that hides

the larger crack
to keep out the drafts that flutter against it.
In relief, the children stare from their dusty frames

on the plaster wall. One holds a puppy.
The other sits quiet on a chair.
Blue shadows etch along the day.

The shadows behind the pictures lean outward
to exaggerate themselves
where the narrow path of sunlight always reaches.

The cobwebs stay undisturbed.
This is an art piece not to be tampered with.
This is the only story that it tells.


—Joyce Odam

Lately we find ourselves amid the ruins;
evidence carries little to admire:
some skeletons, some echoes, and a wide,

accusing silence, which we must decipher.
Wrinkles in the air suggest a winter
that has lingered past the season, and we shiver.

Even the shadows struggle, caught in cobwebs;
nothing shall free them from neglected corners.
Such are the memories of stones and mirrors.

You argue one, and I suggest the other.
Shatters of light still glare and blind the eyes.
Shatters of love still seem to lead the way.

The dust is heavy and the way is narrow.
Even the darkness has a certain shimmer
as it settles down and bids us stay, or go.

It is enough, we say, and wonder why
we poke around through all this spill and clutter.
What did we leave behind that needs us now?

(First published in SOW’S EAR, 2000)


—Joyce Odam

Cobweb Lady
lives in her large house
of web and dust. Her windows are filmy.
Her cats groom themselves endlessly.
She sits in her gown of velvet,
reading diaries.
Everything is written there.
All day she recreates memories.
All night she suffers their transformations.
She has no energy for the spiders
or their works of art.
The spiders work around her,
patiently busy,
making the dark-house corners elegant.


—Joyce Odam

It was a dream
the way I moved against myself
and tired of my effort.
She turned and watched
where I struggled
from so far away.
Her hair hung in ropes.
I was in the body of the child.
My hands pressed my air.
My voices jarred my silence and sound.
There was no safe parent around.
She had thoughts
like webs
and I walked through them
into her secrets.


—Joyce Odam

bring me the study of dark
old ways to go
new rules
tell me what is safe and what is too slow
show me the composition of flowers the
birds in broken windows
the weed grower
the puddles of unsafe water

hang the cobwebs low
i must understand them
bring the glass to my lips
and the clock to my hour
let the jasmine-ash lean that way forever
do not make a sound while i study this
have i said it well
can i make my wish

[Ed's note: This hard-working poem has appeared in Squeezebox, 1974; Ina Coolbrith Anthology, 1975; Lemon Center for Hot Buttered Roll from Hibiscus Press, 1975. It's had an interesting life: journal, anthology, chapbook, and now online! Wouldn't it be great if all our poems could do this much publishing "work" for us?)


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

The hinge on the door lets out a sound:

fear with its secret, here again—
enters and seeks you out. Oh, friend,
fear with its secret—old and thin.

The hinge on the door lets out a sound.



Photo by D.R. Wagner