—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
all the efforts clang like uphill trains;
or boats in fog;
or the distance from drowning
at the edge of the shore
like the slow grief of water
wanting to be born
but the earth is slow
and the air cannot remember
all the sleepers are dead so there is
no dreamer, one far-off poet
remaining in words,
those prisons of inarticulation…
every sorrow has a name—whatever
you call it; whatever you want and
cannot have; whatever you lose and cannot
find; whatever you explain to unhappiness
if there is a reason for healing
let it not be this one
there is too much to do yet,
too much loss and too much grieving
Thanks, Joyce, for today’s poems based on last week’s Seed of the Week: Fair Winds and Following Seas (more about that tomorrow). But if you’re done with the Winds, move on to our next SOW: Strangers on a Train. How about a little poetry noir... Remember the movie? Those two strangers plotted two murders! What else do strangers on a train do? Have a wild but brief love affair? Trade spy secrets? Or just ignore each other and sleep through it all? Send your musings to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 762, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.
From "Art Deco Women’s Collection"—Address book
Illustrations courtesy of Julian Robinson
c. Harper Collins Publishers, 1993
As if time wants us to hurry,
being restless and careless,
being hasty with birds and leaves,
the winds urgent and compelling;
and engage the rumor
of the season:
hurry … it is now . . .
answer in bright unison;
a woman between young and old
stands trembling under
of passing geese,
she opens the folds of her coat
that hugs against her,
her long scarf and her wild hair
release into the migratory urge;
time flows through her,
filling her with joy and bewilderment.
A TRIAL PLACE FOR ETERNITY
For years the women have walked down these gray stairs to the water where they gossip and wash clothes and talk about the boats, which
never come. On glare-bright days they lean out over the ripples and watch their reflections burn in the watery sunshine—a mockery of motion
and distortion. They laugh at themselves, or feel
a tearing away. The men stand in idle groups.
The children run up and down the stairs
or sit by themselves in increments of distance.
At night the stairs empty, except for the few
who stay to watch the mystery of the water—
how it listens back—how it laps and ripples against the base of the stairs. This is only a continuing story made of life that waits for
itself—day by day and night by night, on the edge of persistence. The boats never come.
The stairs go up and down. The children play.
The men stand around. The women
walk down to the lower steps to wash clothes
and look at themselves in the staring water.
The winter music is cold and thin.
It suffers in the cold. It wants in.
The harp player hears the winds through trees,
and plays their wild disharmonies.
The windows tremble, would open to all.
The old church corners continue to howl.
Look what the sea has done—those shadow lines
light touched and cast into striate patterns
for the relentless winds to worry
and try to change. But the persistent sea
will return and change it all again—
will suck away the trace
of all other touchings. This is mine, claims the sea,
and it will return again and again
to wrinkle the sand with
its ebbing, for always it must draw back
into its great heaving self—
like a breathing.
KOMM, SÜSSER TOD
Suddenly death comes in—
sets up his music stand and begins
to play his tiny violin.
Death, I knew you were vain,
but talented, too? The hours wane;
your music sounds like winter rain—
like little drops of notes
that turn into little ferry boats
on which my life serenely floats.
Oh! I think I see shore.
I feel like I’ve seen all this before.
I am so sleepy. Play some more.
TIMES LIKE THIS
Maybe the soft rain will fall forever.
We are a thirsty land.
Our crops are desperate;
our boats wait to take us down long rivulets.
We have saved our black umbrellas
for times like this.
(First published in Poetry Depth Quarterly)