Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dimensionless Summer

Wilted White Chrysanthemums
—Photo by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam, Sacramento

After supper
the old women will walk
through the garden,
limping their way
over the knobby ground
in search of beauty.

How wearily-content
their bodies
take to evening pilgrimage
so they can stand in color
and in fragrance
in an easy wind.

One will gather
a bright bouquet of duty
for the complimenting guest.
The other will accept
with thin protest.

And for the long,
gaunt moments that they
linger, they hang
like scarecrows on their bones
and watch the Iris
bending in September.


—Joyce Odam  

An unsmiling woman, bearing apples on a
dark tray, half-hidden under yellow

flecks of light through a dense tree,
on a September calendar—who does she

remind you of?  Not Eve.  Not your long-
dead mother.  Not anyone you know,

though she is familiar.  She is a trans-
figurement of green.  Her green dress

blends with the darker green of the
orchard.  Her tray is held steady,

in a serene pose of patience.  She is
green shadow.  Her apples gleam.

She lets her eyes linger upon you.
You cannot make out her features;

she has moved back one shadow
deeper.  She beckons you in.

She would never harm you.
You can trust her.

(based on 1997 Calendar: Women by Women,
The Royal Photographic Society “Pomegranates”  
by Minna Keene, Canadian, 1861-1943)

(first pub. in Ekphrasis, 1999)


—Joyce Odam

I, not beautiful,
not sad,
sit at my table
naked in the morning

the windows are cool
and open
no one is looking in

I might
sit this way forever
looking at the nothing
of the wall

I might sit here
till midnight
or till the telephone
or doorbell makes me move

I love the contour of
the chair
the wood-feel
beneath my elbows

I am not thirst
or hungry
or lonely

I am
sitting here

(first pub. in The Wormwood Review, 1973)

—Photo Enhancement by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

This is the last solstice, full of blue arms
reaching through the ghosts of each other,
sad memories drifting ever forward
and meaning nothing.

Often we talk of this, at three in the morning,
into late pillows
full of heavy sincerity and
aching with dreams that wait for our silence.

Oh, this is all just another weary conjecture,
threads of sleep roaming the hours
between us
where we are different and lonely.

We are remnants of all we meant to be.
We never get to make our point
or take the argument under consideration.
We drift and drift on this lake of difference—

one boat becoming two. We drag our hands
in the water and touch the sky. We watch
ourselves leaning. You enter the silver glitters
where sleep has entrusted you with its answers.

Still, the seasons come and go at their different
intensities, and with each one we prefer the other.
But "we" does not fit here. I talk
to myself in the plural. But we are singular—

one way mirrors—mine has a disappearing
bird at the corner of its song; it has
found its way through.
I listen after it. “Yes,” I say.

My boat swirls on its darkness, a fierce bird
falling toward me like a shadow.
I fear we will collide,
but it is only a thought I entered.

And this is where it ends. A yellow cloth rose
glows dusty in the sunlight.
I cannot let myself into your mind.
“Another ending," you offer, and I won’t answer.

Now my mother floats toward me. The yellow rose
is hers, silk like her dress. Her love is
as binding as ever. She is looking at me with her 
old intensity and telling me my new name.

Now my sister has awakened me to tell me
this story. “It is true,” she says, and
whether I believe her is up to me. I can’t decide.
She is the one I conjure out of my lost reality.

One way to follow this
is through your own forest. Make it blue
and deep, and never mind where it centers.
It is just as vague and defined as you make it.

Now it is fading—all I was so sure of—
all that gleamed for my pleasure—all that I
wanted and lost. Like old sepia wrapped
in brown tissue, anonymous with faces. Serious.

It all fits so well—this memory in this slot—
and those that time fell through. I no longer
remember myself as a child—not every year
of my childhood. And yet, these pieces…


After "Calm Morning", 1904 
by Frank Weston Benson, 1862-1951
—Joyce Odam

            Time is but the/stream I go a-fishing in./Robust art.
                                       —Henry David Thoreau (1817-1852)

Shall we remember what was—or what we almost
recall, out of nostalgia,

or the old comfort of boredom.
We had no edge.

We had not lived beyond the now—
the cinema of our minds,

made of movie-lore and imagination.
We should have noticed

more detail
Everything was smaller then.

We were never dramatic.
Everything was enough.

Even the yearning.
Practice proved nothing.

There was always enough day
to go around:

the calm horizon, the rippleless blue water
—the small, floating boats we trusted,

the yellow, gathering sky—
the easy silences that stayed unbroken all this time.

(first pub. in Ekphrasis, 2008)


Thanks to Joyce Odam for her tasty contributions today, including her wilted chrysanthemums, which we're using for our Seed of the Week. Tell us about them: what were they used for? A wedding (maybe the bride or groom failed to show up!) or a funeral? A suitor's gift, a promotion, an apology, or a party? Where are they—on a big-city balcony, or an old man's garden, or a busy mother's kitchen window? Did they wilt from neglect, or was it just their time? Set your muse on those wilted chrysanthemums and send the results to kathykieth@hotmail.com, but there are no deadlines on SOWs. Click on Calliope's Closet in the fuchsia links above to see all the glorious seeds that have sprouted for us in past weeks, months, years…


Today's LittleNip:

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Please don't leave us, September child
whose heart has stopped to rest.

Don't forsake us in our best years of hope.
Don't leave us to grope candleless
in the dark.  You are our way home

in the despair of a long, lonely night.
Nestled in your crib, you are our light.



—Photo Enhancement by Joyce Odam