—Joyce Odam, Sacramento
First he will look at you—so sad—
so sorry—so you won’t stay mad,
then say whatever he will say—
words that will help him work his way
back to your hardened heart: beware,
ever-so-humbly standing there—
flowers extended with such flair:
first the look, then the small sashay,
looking down at his polished shoes,
laughing his two-way laugh—you choose:
is he God’s gift or just bad news—
how he first looks at you—so sad—
so sorry—so you won’t stay mad.
I used to obey the direction, face forward,
walking in a straight line, to the corner and
across the street, bouncing my golf ball on
the loud sidewalk—counting the distance—
so many steps—bounces—resounds—
the sensate pattern of the cracks,
obedience to superstition—another
mother—eyes in the back of her head,
I got to school this way, no snow, except
in Seattle. I lived in sunshine: summer—
summer—summer all my life. I learned to
shortcut through alleys, past the garbage
piles and there found marvelous things,
planted—I thought—for me to find
by kindly fairies straight out of
my fairy-tale books. Once a teacher
gave me tap-shoes from
the poverty closet. I was ashamed,
but loved the shoes. I went
tap-tap-tapping home from school—
at windows—scolding eyes.
I don’t remember if Mother . . .
I don’t know when I lost the golf ball . . . .
Bending to her shoe.
Priest. My mother told me of.
Priest. Bending to her shoe.
One shoe then two.
Buttoning her shoes.
Her crippled shoes.
Bent to his mother.
His dark symbolic mother
with whom he lived.
For and with.
Priest with mother
dark above him on her chair
her long gray swallowing skirt
touching the floor at his knees.
Shoe. Shoe. Priest and shoe.
Her grim presence.
Ill… Ill… Old and old.
Sitting there expressionless.
Sad duty: Son. Mother.
Priest my mother told me of.
with ivory button hook
Priest. Shoe. Priest. Mother.
Prim shoe… High shoe…
of polished leather
with so many buttons
my mother told me of…
(first pub. in Etcetera, 1998)
upon narrowing lawns
years pulled them back
old lives corrected themselves
the falling music threatened to die
the old musicians stayed in tune
old lovers loved again
strangers who came remained strangers
nothing is ever the same
some wept at this
old reasons within them
was the name of the next song
the dancers danced again
their shoes lost under chairs and tables
the drifting dancers hung onto the
sloping shoulders of each other
time came back too soon
they went home
(first pub. in Blue Unicorn, 1991)
The plastic boy in the window wears
a woman’s wig, a pair of long pants
and a plaid shirt. A tilted mannequin
on a stand beside him wears a falling-off
evening gown and no shoes. She has
painted-on hair and a chipped-off smile.
A newer mannequin in a corner, by the
nail full of belts and the folded umbrella,
wears a velvet hat with feathers and a
flowered skirt and long green beads
over a purple sweater. Inside the display
case, I catch my own reflection,
staring out, through the array of odds
and ends—accessories and picture
frames—books and vases—
a one-eyed teddy bear—
some baby shoes—a candy wrapper . . .
lie upside down inside the glass.
The sign says: Enter. Open nine to five.
No checks. No smoking. Help wanted.
Every single soul is a poem.
Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poetry stew, and let's take a clue from her talk of windows for this week's Seed of the Week: Through the Open Window... What happened there? Did somebody escape, or sneak in? Did you see something you weren't supposed to see? Or was it metaphorical—a window of opportunity? Send us your window poems at firstname.lastname@example.org, either now, this week, this month, or in the years to come. No deadline on SOWs.