Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Third Seat on the Right

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


Look at them, under the violet awnings.
They are crudely blent, standing like
children’s drawings in a blue storm.

Their round wet faces shine in the almost
darkness. They are late and they know it.
They know how much trouble they cause.

There is a violence at the edge of them
they do not want to enter. The day is a
smear of wet colors. They are vulnerable.

They do not want the wind to whip them
around corners. The other directions
want to change them. They do not want

to step into the late bus or the slow black
automobile that opens the door to their
last appointment.

They would rather wait where they are,
under the violet awnings, crudely blent,
like children’s drawings in a blue storm.



He is standing in the snow, a city away from
where he needs to be, a swirl away from
promises or schedules, or some aimless walk
against a winter loneliness. He waits as though
a bus were coming, or an all-white limou-
sine—invisible and slow. He looks toward a
movement or a sound and centers to a world
of white that locks him into place upon a
whiteness that is losing all dimension. A sign
creaks in the wind behind him, blank with
obliteration. With a patience he endures, or
some resignation he prefers, he stands against
a landscape that is winter at its deepest—in all
this blinding white—like something frozen to
a winter envy-card. Perhaps he simply doesn’t
know which way to wait or go.



Like some old woman in a dream she owns,
holding a sack of something that she guards,
she does not know what bus to take. She’s lost
the schedule. The bench is full of old, dissolving
people. She does not sit with them, but walks

another block to the next stop where the rain
has ended under a sky-gray thin umbrella
held by one who turns and looks at her.
It is herself. They stare. They look away.
They do not speak. She sits beside and waits.

She frowns, then opens the sack and lifts the birdcage
from it, undoes the latch and croons with joy
as the bird flies out. A child looks up and asks:
Why did she have to let it go?—and weeps.
But the woman does not answer, for the bus

has come, and she gets on, though she does not know
where it will take her. She holds the empty sack
on her lap and wonders where she left the cage
with the bird she was going to give to someone. But
she can’t remember who. And the bus never gets

to where she’s going. She naps and dreams. She wakes.
In the sack, the cage has opened for the bird—
its little flight reclaimed—recaptured by
her memory—her golden nightingale—
returned—loyal as love. It sings to her.



the drunk who was crossing the street
on red
did a dance to the bus

when the bus had passed
gave a finger to the bus
did a drunken maneuver

and before he got to the corner
slanted off
from between the safety lines

turned east
and was silhouetted into the sun
of 8:00 a.m. and Friday

(first pub. in Poet News, 1990,
Caught Against the Years
SpiralChap by Joyce Odam and
Charlotte Vincent, 2005,
Rattlesnake Press)



The woman of sad experience is tearing up her
letters. They are turning into ashes. A match-
stick hangs like a scar from the art of her fin-
gers. Her suitcase is open on the bed. Her child
watches. She is dyeing her hair before the mir-
ror. The dyed water runs down her face when
she raises her head to recognize herself. She has
locked the door. Now she must answer or not
answer to the knock. She must ask who or be
silent. Out in the night, the New Life risks her
entrance, opening the way for her, lending her
its staircase.
                      *               *               *
In the bus depot, she waits for the voice of the
loudspeaker. Her child is asleep on her lap. The
timetable is folded in her purse. Now she is ris-
ing into the smoke and the smell of the terminal,
standing in line with the strangers she does not
want to sit beside. She takes the third seat on the
right and watches the others push past, bumping
their suitcases and mumbling sorry. The bus
driver climbs through the doorway and checks
down the aisle of passengers. Their faces gather
momentum for their separate journeys. Their
bodies rock to a common rhythm. Her child
dreams of all her promises. She leans her head
against the window.
                       *               *               *
No goldfish or canary shall miss their presence.
The cat down the hall will resume its superior
identity, licking its paws in the sunshine. No
clues will be left to the landlady with her yellow
broom and keys. Lives are lived and let go of.
They are tragic entertainment for the perform-
ers. They are comedies to be enjoyed. They are
ill-performed love stories.



When a face looks out
away from itself
through a grimy window
of some traveling—

a passenger of life
the scenery blurring by
the rhythm of the miles
becoming years

and the face
remains turned away
watching it all pass
like an audience

not remembering
when it got on
or when it will get off
if this is a bus

or even if it is a life—
or a poem
to question this

or even if the figure
is only imagined
or a haunting history
or the play itself.


Today's LittleNip:


corpse of old tarp
lies in field
like old collapsed cow
on her way to frail fence
that birds lift from
in little startles of silences . . .

almost a death
to bring forth gasp
from the passing monotony
of the bus


—Medusa, with thanks to Joyce Odam for today's poems and pix, much of which was about our Seed of the Week: At the Bus Stop. Time for a new one!—Boots. Of all the shoes, boots have the most variety: muddy work boots; shiny sexy ones with spike heels; yellow rubber ones we wore to school—I'm sure you can think of many more. Where have those boots been? Who wore them? What have they been up to? Send your SOW poems/photos/artwork to kathykieth@hotmail.com—no deadline on SOWs though. Go back to the bus stop if you want to!