Saturday, December 18, 2010

Revising Our Needs

Neon Tree
Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

The poor trees have forgotten
where they put their leaves

they keep shaking birds loose
and the winds says
soon—soon I will bring back
your happiness

and the trees smile
where the winter sun is lying
in golden positions
upon their branches

and the birds forgive them
and return

(First published in Portland Oregonian, 1970
then in Joyce's mini-chap, Frog Perspective)


—Joyce Odam

He needs his umbrella
because, if he has it, it will not rain.
It will not rain because he is ready for it.

He is impatient for rain—needs
to know he can flip open his umbrella
in case the rain comes suddenly upon him

when he is out in the open,
with no hat on, and lost from any
direction because he has forgotten so much.


—Joyce Odam

Here is where it ends—this long corridor,
each step mysterious, like someone else’s

memory. Whose mirror is this, anyway?
—hung at the wall-end, where you watch

yourself approach—as from a forgotten
distance—farther than you imagined.


—Joyce Odam

(after The Old Beggar Woman, Barcelona 1901, Picasso)

All night she walks in her blue fur,
ice-light on her face, crystallizing
her expression. Her yellow gown trails
in the yellow reflections of the street.
She has forgotten where she is.
Her bare feet move in the direction
of rain. She catches herself in a
passing window. Light mocks her,
holds her fixed. She poses and poses
for the admiration of glass. Under
her coat, her hands hold her breasts.
Her blue fur slips from her shoulders.
She begins to undress.


—Joyce Odam

She buries the secret like some forgotten toy,
or one discarded in her mind—under
the busy thoughts that surface.

The secret sinks and sinks to the bottom
and settles there in the mud
of her existence.

It burrows deeper.
But there is no deeper,
so it nudges there—remembering itself.

But she will not
let it rise; it is her prisoner.
She’s afraid of it. She knows it can tell.


—Joyce Odam

just now
the dancer suspends in air
holding his leap
loving the perfection of it
he is almost a snapshot
he makes the music wait
the whole day falls around him
he does not move
spotlights of night come on
and he shines in his bright costume
he has forgotten how
not to be a dancer

(First published in Poet News, October 1988)


Today's LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam 

What is it
we have forgotten
so we cannot praise it?

Did it not belong to us once?

Then let us praise our lack of it
to honor our endurance.
We must revise our needs.



Photo by Katy Brown