Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Everything is Risk

Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

The lady who brought me weeds
put them among my flowers.

Now the room is filled
with a dry smell
and a spindly color.

They are tall in the vase,
contrasting the softer beauty
of two dying roses
and one dead gardenia.

Her weeds are like stalks
of survival
in the warm brown water—
gift of make-do.

And the lady sits
in the straight-backed chair
of my receiving,

talking of all the people
who thusly need her.

(first pub. in Portland Oregonian, 1969)


—Joyce Odam

pulling the roots
pulling them right out
straight out and up
through the heart and flesh
of the earth
laying them exposed to the air
which will shrivel them
pulling them right out
of the reluctant earth
which holds them so firmly
which tugs at your fingers
for grip
you and the earth
struggling for
the weeds


—Joyce Odam

poor damn yellow weed
pulling its life from the
ground under the crack in
the cement island between
the iron poles
in the service station…

never mind that…it is making
the wild sweet effort…
autumn-dancing…telling the wind
yesyesyes here i am….

(first pub. in The Small Pond, 1974)

—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

Who would wade there—
though the field is handsome with light-play
and etch of texture—

even beautiful at mid-day—
in full sun—when it glints and grabs the eye
with its sharpness—

the merest sway of breeze rubbing
thistle against thistle with a scratching sound
that the eye takes as a warning.

(first pub. in Weed Symbolism, Mini-Chap 2002)


—Joyce Odam

I focus on a brown paper sack
being blown by the brown wind
over the afternoon sidewalk
of this brown day,
a helpless tumbling thing
weightless as a used-up
wandering thought
of someone homeless
or otherwise discarded,
wrinkled and torn-edged,
rolling free and useless,
simply blown about,
and stopped
and blown again . . .

what it contained
is not of relevance
nor is its ineffective part
in anything, except
as random image caught
by my attention—
a plain brown sack
in a dry brown day that I watch
for the simple act
of watching it—
blown here and there,
then blown away.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 1997)


—Joyce Odam

To pity something so small
and get away with it,
watch daylight form at the window,

wear sound, like glass, around you,
that breakable.
Nothing is as easy as love,

or as harmful. Everything
is risk, with or without rules.
Go for the tremble,

like tree-shadow on a wall at night.
Night comes early.
When it does, call it winter.

Save your sympathy
for something worthy.
Even the ant in its tiny struggle.

Lost is lost
for which there is no direction.
Then you’ll know why a map

is useful. Even life as it unfolds,
crease after crease
from so much folding.

Consult the stars.
They too have a reason for being.
Even the darkness mourns,

then surrenders.
Uphill is the only way to go
that is worth the effort.

After words upon words
upon words,
see how small the page is?


Thanks to Joyce Odam for today's Kitchen fare, working with last week's Seed of the Week: Poetry of the Overlooked. This week we're going to talk about Weeds. Spring has them popping up like, well, weeds. But is there any such thing, or are they just in the wrong place at the wrong time? What about all those metaphoric weeds that spring up in the middle of our lives: pesky people,  maybe, or bills, or ideas we don't want to hear about? Send your thoughts about Weeds to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs, though—see Calliope's Kitchen under the Snake on a Rod in the green box at the right of this column for plenty of ideas to get your writing rolling.

National Poetry Month continues with a nice sampling of area readings to get you rolling too; scroll down to the blue board. Tomorrow, for example, the new Verse on the Vine series in Folsom features Cynthia Linville, and the new magazine, Zoom, will be covering it. U-Nite at the Crocker is Thursday, and you have not one, but TWO area day-long workshops to choose from on Saturday. Be sure to take advantage of some of these and the other events happening this week.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Joyce Odam

In the place of fierce
beauty, where spiny thistle
glitters in the sun,
those butterflies with ragged
wings come swarming back again.

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1998)



 —Photo by Joyce Odam