Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sestinas and Wilted Lettuce

October Gardenia
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

And now we get into lines
that stagger away
and down

the page
of your thought
that builds and carries,

and we get to your
breaking parts—
those caesuras of your heart,

and the abstract hesitations
of your eyes, and the way
you whisper to yourself;

and we get to the reason
you allow yourself to follow
what you do not know.

And I love
the way the rain
leads the way with this.


—Joyce Odam

your cry
on the soft darkness

your tears
in a tight handkerchief

making the rain
such sorrow

(first pub. in Paisley Moon, 1991)


—Joyce Odam

Here, in the rain, where light darkens;
where wet horses shine in the field;

where the fence line stretches like a rule
and the horses bend to the lustrous grass

and are happy
without showing their happiness;

here, where the sky turns a shade of lavender
and nothing sounds—not even

a commenting crow—
not even an echo left over from

some human curse
or laugh—

only the slow falling of the particular rain
that falls and         keeps falling

on the luminous horses
who stand together in the field

as the sky turns another color . . .
and this is enough to say about the rain . . . .

(first pub. in The Ship of Fools, 2007)


Beautiful Leaf
Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

I know the trees are clean now.
I know the grass is pleased.

I know the cars are shining
underneath the dripping leaves.

I know the rushing gutters
think they are a river.

I know the rain, the rain, the rain
thinks it will rain forever.

(first pub. in Song of the San Joaquin, 2004)


—Joyce Odam

at the market place
where we had gone too soon
we watched the garbage rise
toward yesterday’s gain

old trucks with childhood eyes
were driving backwards
through the rain that said
sorry, wrong season

our wilted lettuce
and our few limp beans
were useful later

we were unchanged
still poor
still hungry
still making do with
always less than needed

(pub. in CSPS Poetry Letter, 1991 and
Red Cedar Review, 1971)


—Joyce Odam

She is
all deflection.

Nothing gets past.
She has become carved
of iron will.

She obscures the silence.

Rock words, stone words,
meet her wall.
Sound must go around.

Everything triggers her.
A word brings torrent.
No rain will rust her.

(first pub. in Canada Notebook)


—Joyce Odam

It was the way into darkness,
a trickery of rain, a collage of shadows;

a form, then another, merging into glass light;
a sound like a laugh; then no one there;

You left your umbrella hanging on a knob;
I dropped a quarter under a chair.

We left the others, knowing the night
would hold them a little longer;

laughing, they waved goodbye
and blurred together.

(pub. in Poetry Now, 2001 and
Our Black Umbrellas [Mini-Chap], 2002)


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

There will be no coming back
from this,
no turning-around place
in the breakage of our lives.

This is a road on a dangerous mountain,
steep and narrow,
rocks slipping off the cliff edge
and rain pouring down.

(first pub. in Atom Mind, 1997)


Thanks to Joycey for today's beautiful presentation of photos and rain poems! Our Seed of the Week next week is Trees—I know, we've done that one before, but this is the Grand Season for the turning of leaves, so let's let our muses dwell on them for awhile.

Medusa's Kitchen has yet another feature, 'way down in the green box near the book section: Reviews to Sink Your Fangs Into. SnakePal and MK Reporter Trina Drotar sent us these fine links, so we thought it'd be a good thing to have a place to put 'em. Want to be an MK Reporter? Just send us links, photos, gossip—any kind of poetphernalia that others might find titillating or useful. No pay, but a boatload of everlasting satisfaction......

Other items of note on the b-board: (1) WTF deadline this Saturday! (2) Strictly East, a source of East Bay poetry news (subscribe—it's free!). And (3) the Scribes are back! If you've never heard the mother-daughter team, Straight Out Scribes, make an effort to catch them at one of their appearances this week. Staajabu and V.S. Chochezi are wonderful, and we've missed their performances since Staajabu moved back East.

Our Form to Fiddle With for the week is the sestina, a bitch of a challenge that will curl your toes and addle your brain. Herewith are two dandies, one from the venerable Taylor Graham (love the subject!) and the other from a new voice in town, Sabrina Berci, one of D.R. Wagner's students—both of them bravely tackled the sestina and won, I think.

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Overnight, ants have found a way
into the pantry, past that fortified line
of diatomaceous earth—
microscopic prehistoric swords
to cut insect exoskeletons; a minefield
guarding my small hoard of sweet—

heirloom canister of sugar, sweet
to trick some mother's errant son away
from mischief (a vacant field
just made for fighting line-to-line).
How children play with swords
down the generations! How on earth

could our forebears return to earth
without promise of a sweet
awakening? Angel-cake or -swords
to put them in salvation's way?
They stood in starvation-line,
they heaped up rocks to wall a field.

Don't we wish to level every field
to our liking? This piece of earth,
our inheritance. Here's the line-
cut of a grandfather (mustache, sweet
smile; they say he had a way
with women) balancing two swords

as if that gave him magic. Swords
or ploughshares? Any field
is just a matter of perspective, a way
of humans passing over earth.
So she said, arranging sweet-
meat on a platter in a dainty line

to fit with some old poet's line
honed by rhetorical swords.
Harrow words to extract a sweet
harvest from the muddy field
we walk, our dismembered earth.
Our calculated, shortcut way.

Drawn by sweet, the ants fall in line,
bodies barring the way like swords
across war-field. This home, our earth.


—A Sestina by Sabrina Berci

I open my window to hear your sound
Though the chaos of this journey surrounds
You are calm, and ceaseless, as you fall down
Your sweet instruments play their parts in this,
The symphony of life, and each droplet,
An unexpected trial turned to blessing

But at first I'm blinded to your blessing.
I know I am alive, I hear your sound,
Yet I'm sick of constant droplet, droplet
What could be great about rain that surrounds?
Hovering over this cold city, this
Drenched, unmindful, proud town going down?

If there's more to see than floods coming down
Like enjoying company, the blessing
Of a fireplace, keeping warm on this
Frozen night, Then why do I make the sound
Of a whining trumpet? House walls surround,
I'm dry, safe from any tiny droplet

Have I ever been harmed by a droplet?
Clear, light, soft, cold, wet, small tears coming down?
Like tinsel streaming, rain comes and surrounds
Though I complain, a farmer sees blessing
He hears a glorious symphony sound
He goes out to feel the wet truth of this

How could it be? Such different views of this?
Unique perspectives of one little droplet?
Which is the tone of the instruments' sound?
Is it alive? Horses galloping down
A valley of long-awaited blessing?
Is it sorrowful, as if gloom surrounds?

How, how do we hear the rain that surrounds?
Look at the farmer, he's joyful in this
Look how he sees the rain as a blessing
He remembers this song without a droplet
He remembers the past, and doesn't look down
But begins to play, and uplift praise sound.



Chicory (last one)
—Photo by Joyce Odam