Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ah, Those Old Nudes...


Dear Ladies, of the fountain,
of the age,
of the year that holds its place in time,

self-mesmerizing in your glamour,
bobbed hair, bow lips,
posing so pretty, oh,

and so
by the columns, by the arches—

by the naked caryatid
holding up the fountain,
the yellow glow of sunrise

pouring through
the motionless water,
reminding you how late it is . . .

but vanity has captured you,
become your mirror—fawning
mirror of time—never releasing you.

(After: Art Deco Women’s Collection
Illustration by Julian Robinson)



Boy-Girl-Dolls, hand-carved, cleverly
jointed, so they can move arms and hips

and legs in a clumsy hand-held walk,
their clothes pulled off for body-

inspection, then left to stare at
each other with painted smiles and eyes.

Some child has arranged them in a forest-
setting of tiny trees and out-sized birds

to act-out story after story in the
story-voice of children who

left them there, weathered from
neglect with no more lines to say.

Maybe they’re worth something now:
Handmade archaic toys—Relics of lost art

—beyond the lost imagination of a child.

(After: “The Babes in [the] Wood”, 1875 

lithograph by Parsloe, Vance & Co.)



Three nudes perform
the dance of blue
in time with light and light’s pale hue,

in tone with dark
and dark’s disguise;
don’t look in their romantic eyes—

how they come close,
and then recede—
don’t look at them, or else believe

you’ll never love them—
nor they you,
three nudes who dance the dance of blue.

(After: "Three Nudes", 1943, Henry Miller)



Ah, yes—the old drowned doll—that mystery
again. Foul play, I’m sure—cliché of broken
childhood: play turned cruel, indifferent to the
sadness of dolls. This one awkward upon wet
sand as if up-flung by a rejecting wave. Poor
naked doll, its face ground in, one arm raised
as though to swim out of this flailing—one
foot dug in—the day turning cold—night coming
on, and no one to grieve its dying.

(From May Sarton’s "Well")



They want to dance together
but the music is stiff and awkward

and they don’t know how
though they have their arms around each other.

But he twists one way, and she another,
as if they were dancing in different directions.

His arm is in firm position around her,
and her hand is tender upon his face.

But the music can’t seem to get it together.
And they discover they have no clothes on.

But they want to dance together, and he goes
ta dum ~ ta dum ~

and the music starts over, and goes discordant,
like a suffer of green,

and his face goes tragic, and she looks resigned.
Still—they want to dance together.

(First pub. in a chapbook of the same name
by Joyce Odam, Poets Corner Press, 2003)


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)



Remember us?
We are the beauties you once loved.;
and how we loved our mirrors

as we love them still.
We surround ourselves with mirrors—
loving how we are familiar.

Remember how you hounded us—
promised and cajoled—
all for the surrender of our kisses?

Your hands were Braille to our bodies.
Your eyes were as deep as mirrors.
You wanted to undress us.

Now we are nude for our appraising eyes.
How serenely we settle into our ravages—
give ourselves permission to be old.

(After: a drawing by Kumi Pickford, "The Fault IX", 1976;
First pub. in
A Tiny Book Of Nudes Mini-Chap
by Joyce Odam, 2002)



She bends down to feed a cat
and she praises her own goodness.
Her eyes are quieter than a statue’s
and her skin is cold in
the thin hands of beginners.
Consider her smile.
She is opportunity and loss.
She is patient and her anger smoulders.
She is basic,
letting her naked children
rise to her shoulders like angels.
She belongs to the mirrors
which disembody her
mood by mood and season by season.
She will not complain
unless she be cruel about it.
How can she be old . . .
she is humming her safe tune
to the brevity of flowers.

(First pub. in The Poets Guild, 1996)



This has nothing to do with death.  This is
a dance of love—his costume of bones, her
naked flesh—danced before a black curtain.

They do not ask each other’s names.  They are
anonymous;  this is a masquerade and they are
mysterious, mesmerized by each other’s roles.

A spotlight watches them with its praise.
They arch and improvise in a single flow
across the wide oblivion of the stage.

The music has long since died,
but the night has consented to stay forever.
His bones are supple, and she glows.

He holds her against his cold intensity,
and they dissolve. This has nothing to do
with love. This is a dance of death.

(After: photo-album of historical “pornographic”
portraits made between 1850 and 1950, from the
collection of French author, essayist, and critic
Serge Bramly)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix, winding up last week's Seed of the Week: The Antebellum Ladies' Nudist Society. Our new Seed of the Week is Inconsolable.

Trina Drotar reminds us that Sharon Olds will be on Capital Public Radio's "Insight" this morning from 10-11pm. And Trina has a review of the new showing at the Crocker Art Museum; see www.sacramentopress.com/headline/83761/An_Opening_of_the_Field_opens_at_the_Crocker_Art_Museum


Today's LittleNip:


These old nudes
water-bathing at the spa . . .

No. These old nudes
voluptuous in the mirror . . .

Or: these old nudes
challenging the deaf eye of the artist . . .

Ah—these old nudes.

(After: a drawing by Kumi Pickford, "The Fault IX", 

1976; First pub. in A Tiny Book Of Nudes Mini-Chap
by Joyce Odam, 2002)