Wednesday, June 01, 2011

What's Left Behind

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

opening the

dried leaves
fell out

and broke
like old

they were
stiff and brown
she could not

why she
saved them

what moment
of what season

next time
she vowed
instead of tears,

for instance,
or some moment
meant to keep

forever in its joy,
she’d press

in her winter book
and leave no trace
to haunt

(first published in Acorn, 1977)


          (After "The Violet Note", 1885-86, James Whistler)
—Joyce Odam

Things my mother saved: sunflower doilies
with bright red centers, sooty-white pillowcases
embroidered with blue thread.

Clay dolls with broken fingers.
Her old lullaby—words in a gibber.
Her standard recipes for love, fragile with use.

Books in a foreign language.
The moody window she stared out of—
taken down and wrapped in old newspaper.

Letters she never opened. An envelope full of
hair. A plastic box of unpainted fingernails.
A tiny black emery board, worn down.

Maps of where we’d been,
the little towns circled in pencil—then erased.
I don’t remember any of them.

The year she left me when I died three times
before she came to get me—the toys I left
all gathered back, like explanations.

The years between
this one and the year when I was born—
the first and last coincidence.


—Joyce Odam

At night,
beside the Fool,
the peacock strolls the grounds
and in the moonlight, rounds
the courtyard pool—
a quite

and lonely prize:
white peacock of the King
the Fool leads on a string
for the Queen’s eyes.
He’d heard

the Queen
once say how she
pitied what the King kept
blinded—how she had wept
it could not see
to preen.


     (After "The Toy Shelf, Ruby Bird" (postcard) by Lewis H. 
—Joyce Odam

I cannot manage light, so I use the dark.  In collage
so fragile that I dare not touch—all of it message—all
of it plea, with me for answer.  I try to rearrange the
pieces that are there, stuck in their places of resistance.
Hiding.  Hidden.  Serious memories, high as a child can
reach, on shelves carved out of closet-cloth: a tapestry
of what is left behind.


—Joyce Odam

They love each other.  Notice how they pose:
two as one, perfection in their eyes.
They kiss in public, heedless of the stares.
She yields to him.  His arm about her shows
his ownership.  They are each other’s prize.
Poor and foolish?  Neither of them cares.

Love conquers all, so how can they ignore
the truth of this?  They’re trusting to the core.

They’ll revel with the highs, and skip the lows.
They’d rather trust than forfeit.  That’s their plan.
They bond the tighter to resist their foes
with no persuasion more compelling than:
You get the thorns with every perfect rose.
But if love cannot break them, nothing can.

(an Alfred Dorn Sonnet, first published in Poets Forum Magazine)


—Joyce Odam

Nostalgia is
a bitter joy.

is a price to pay.

O then! O then! O then!
we reminisce

and poke around
the entered mood



Today's LittleNip: 

Things ain't what they used to be and probably never was.

—Will Rogers


—Medusa (with thanks to Joyce Odam for wrapping up our discussion of Keepsakes. It's a good thing she asked whether I'd gotten her poems, because no, I hadn't. Be sure to ask if you don't get a reply from me! Joyce will be reading tonight at the Sacramento Central Library, 828 I St., 6pm, with Katy Brown. The reading will be over at 7, in plenty of time for you to head over to Davis to hear Dennis Schmitz at Bistro 33, 8:30pm. See our b-board for details.)

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis