Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Child Knows What Fears Become

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


She has such children,
such children,
hidden in bibles and prayers,
hidden under blanket-tents
pulled over chairs,
hidden in the world
away from her . . . hidden.
But her strings are silver rain
and her children come home again
to dry her hair,
to kiss her wet weeping.
Her strings are silver rain.
Her children return.
She holds them . . .
she sends them away . . .
it is an old pattern.

(first pub. in Voices International,
© 1989 by Voices International, Inc.)



A child of long ago lay in our arms.
She could not hold us, though, nor love us,
nor abuse the future privilege of our concern.

What was it that we knew about her—
that she was dead?  Not so!  Not so!
That she lived, then?  No!

It’s more than that.  She was our own
who never was her own.
And yet she moved us to such strength—

to name her name  and let her go.
She never saw us, though we stared upon her
sad and long to make an imprint.

She would have loved us later;
nothing of this poor song
would have been necessary;

no curious longing and regret would take
her sweet and bitter place within us.
Child,    Child,    Child,

you were so perfect.
Maybe that’s your secret . . .
all you needed . . . to be verified.



Outside, the voices of loud children
surrounding the mirage of my house . . .

I live here
in precarious silence
holding the tremulous boundaries together . . .

But they get through . . .
to the bright oranges on my tree
to the curiosity beyond my fence
to the dismissal of my windows . . .

I have become so narrow . . .

Just now a child slips through . . .
then another . . . then another . . .


I found her in an old sand-pile,
such a sad little doll, her eyes
clogged shut, one arm
dangling, her hair still long,
but thin and straggly.
You would want to comb it.
She had a pretty dress on
once, with a pink sash.
I couldn’t find her shoes
though I dug for them.
I wish I could find
where you have gone to
in this stressed-out world.
She stays so silently forsaken
in my arms. She won’t respond
to me. I think she still waits for you.



On the morning news:
A child has been murdered

a skeleton child
lost for so long

that the world heard about
and prayed for

that the world looked for
and could not find

no one knew
where else to look

the parents, on the television,
cried and begged the world

and now we know:
A child has been murdered

in our own neighborhood
another child.

(first pub. in Acorn, 1999)



I remember the floating fish on the sunlit water.
I remember the floating fish on the sunlit water.
Death was contained in a warped dimension.   
Death was contained in a warped dimension.
Floating on the death, a warped dimension was
contained in the sunlit fish.  I remember water.  

All such memory fills the window.
All such memory fills the window.
Child never knows what fears become.        
Child never knows what fears become.
Fears become what all such memory knows:
the window Child never fills.

All day it rains, and all night.
All day it rains, and all night.
Time is hungry.  It feeds itself.
Time is hungry.  It feeds itself.
All day, time rains,
and all night it feeds itself.  It is hungry.

I remember the sunlit water.
All day it rains and never fills the window.
Time is itself—hungry.  It feeds.
Child knows what all fears become,
contained in such memory all night: death
was the fish, floating on a warped dimension. 

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2007)


Mother is tending to baby now,
do not disturb her smile.

Don’t climb her rhythmic rocking
nor help to hum her lullaby.

Mother is nursing baby, don’t
nuzzle her with your cold mouth.

Do not stare upon her nipple,
Mother is closing her eyes . . .

to be away . . .
quit finding her.


(After “Baby in Wicker Basket” by Joseph Whiting Stock.
Cover Illustration for
The Unlovely Child,
Poems by Norman Williams)

Oh, babe in blue dress
in straw cradle, serene-faced
against a white pillow,

floated there
like a dated drawing;
the musics that you hear

are shown on your listened face—
the flutes in the air—the trembled
afterspace—the weeping that comes

from another room—
soft tears of mother that drift
and lullaby you;

you turn your face to the reaching
but her grief has forgotten you;
she picks up a thread,

runs it through a needle,
the room slips a shadow,
cuts you free;

you float to her
with your little shining life.
She holds you.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her photos and these rather unsettling poems. In almost every Seed of the Week, I suggest thinking out of the box, working with metaphors rather than the obvious. I found it fascinating that Joyce took the theme of nesting and turned it on its head, writing about mothers who found the nest difficult at best. About these poems, Joyce writes: Somehow, the theme this time took me in the opposite direction of "nurture", to "unable to nurture",  mostly. "The Poet Mentions Her Children" was for Mary Rudge, quite a long time ago, from the gist of much of her poetry and commentary thereof. I remember one poem in particular that I loved of hers, entitled: "Children, Your Mother Wanted to be a Poet".
April is upon us, and April is National Poetry Month. It will be celebrated on websites far and wide; here are a couple to check out first: "What is National Poetry Month?" at www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41 and Poetry Daily: poems.com/about_newsletter.php/. In light of National Poetry Month, our new Seed of the Week is Sheer Poetry.

And local journals have new spring issues, too. Check out:

•••Casey Robb's new website—the science poem page is www.pikapawpress.com/science
•••Ekphrasis, edited by Laverne and Carol Frith: www.ekphrasisjournal.com
•••Canary, the journal of environmental poetry: hippocketpress.org/canary


Today's LittleNip:


See how pretty my baby?
Look, Mister Camera,
see my little doll?

Do not look at me,
my tired smile,
my wrinkled face,
my fat body…

look at
my child,
my youngest beauty.

She is not heavy in
my arms, love knows!
She will grow up to be
as pretty as I
used to be.

(first pub. in Imprints Quarterly, 1971)