Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Welcoming St. Lucy

Strange Cargo, Locke, CA
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento


window shopping
looking for time
in the lit windows
of the night
our faces
in reflection
shine and compliment
our very presence
to each other
as we preen
and once again discover
our old roles of relevance
as some essential

the nights propel us
swift and slow
along night’s
simple avenue
the shops
reveal the mockery
of every want
expensively displayed
with glass between
and glass within
we stroll awhile
then disappear
around the
darker corner of the year

(first pub. in Poetry Now, 1999)



Hungry, we smelled the bread. The breeze opened up. We
followed, tried to find the source. No bakery anywhere,
only the open window of air.

We followed the sensuality of yeast. The air took on a
tawny color. Our eyes became as dark as poppy seeds.

We tried to hurry. After a long time we came to an empty
plate on an old tablecloth covered with picnic ants and
fallen leaves. The scent was here.

We heard voices off in a small distance. And laughter.
We followed the sound of this and came upon

ourselves—in an intimate embrace—savoring a perfect
moment before we had to go back to some forgotten hunger;
some unresolved beginning.

Standing Wall


We are half-hungry
all the time,
not for the food, but for
the unknown taste.

The peach is in
the orchard of the mind.
We cannot find that
dark, unreachable tree;
but if we could,

the fruit
that gathered ripeness
for our taste
would never
taste the way
we thought it should.

(first pub. in The Third Leaf Has Fallen,
Mini Chapbook, 1968)


(Sacramento, c. 1972)
where is that old lady
with the

heavy shopping bags
scraping the sidewalk

up and down the curbs
all over town

i meant
to speak to her

i used to see her

in my neighborhood

in all the
shopping centers

not looking in
store windows

walking fast
for someone so old

her arms pulled
long as an ape’s

wearing that long dark dress
and the coat in summer

and the hat that hid
her face

(first pub. in Poem, 1972) 


old man
looking at fruit

(pears and peaches and cantaloupe)

in the grocery window

(nectarines and apricots and
the sweet grapes)

the old man’s eyes are as filmy
as saliva

(strawberries, blackberries,

his hand shake
his pockets have no money

(oranges and tangerines
and the yellow apples)

the old man’s hunger
is on his face
like a hate

(honeydew, casaba,
Persian melon)

words he can almost

(pomegranates, plums, bananas)

(first pub. in Jeopardy, 1971)


After the poem, “Novella”, by Adrienne Rich

In the first alcove sits the resignating shadow of a mourner,
contemplating grief, rosary hands moving in mumbled prayer.

A gray bird sings outside a window with a human voice, but in
a foreign tongue, then stretches out its wings and flies away.

A woman stops at a shop window to admire her reflection.
She considers buying the red dress on the slender mannequin.

An ill child dreams of her future: she is a circus performer on
a wild white horse galloping round and around a burning ring.

In the first alcove, the figure rises and becomes visible, going
through a red velvet curtain into room after room after room.

The horse stumbles. The quick child does a beautiful somersault
off and onto its back again as the horse regains its footing.

The woman crosses the street in the rain, contemplating 
regret and weariness. She clutches a package under her arm.

The gray bird knows its reflection is false; knows there is
no sky there; knows the ill child will ask it to sing again.
(first pub. in Mud Creek, 1990)

Art Fountain

Though you feed the birds
they will always hate you
stabbing and shrilling at you
as they do.

They do not know
you are kind and lonely
that your food will run out
but not your pity.

They will come at you
in mindless rage
attacking your hand;
they are so many and they
can always eat faster than your giving.

And they never tame
to a stale piece of bread
held out for their nearing.
They want nothing to do with your caring.

See their wild eyes,
the knifeness of their beaks,
how they hunch away sideways
and allow no softness of your voice
through their incessant screeching.

Each day you come to them
through the low sunshine,
back-lit and smiling for your mercy,
a heavy presence they have come to expect.

They cluster and complain
while you empty your pockets and hands
of all you have to give them
since you are the beggar here.

(first pub. in Mud Creek, 1990)



It was light that fell all over the tray
and picked out the design and flickered in

appreciation; and it was light that flowed
toward the room’s darkness and filled it

with late illumination. This was not to go
unnoticed by the eyes of those who were

groping for some direction to pull them a-
way from some deep hypnosis of their own.

It was such a day as this—thick with winter,
its slow destruction—the way they could not

move through it without dying, so they
stayed. And it was this vagrant after-

noon light that somehow found their
window and made its simple declaration a-

gainst the gloom. “A sign,” they said to-
gether; and breathed again, and moved again,

and once more pulled at the frozen page
of the calendar until it gave.

(first pub. in Blue Unicorn, 1999)

Closed Shop, Locke, CA
[Click once to enlarge and see the Maneki Neko
we talked about in yesterday's post!]

Today’s LittleNip:

“Release your resentments and regrets into the darkness, knowing they will be transformed—and enjoy a visit from St. Lucy.”

“As you mark the Winter Solstice, you should enjoy yourself as much as possible, because this will bring back light (and lightness) into the world.” 

(Read more about St. Lucy and the Solstice at www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Pagan-and-Earth-Based/2003/12/Celebrating-Solstice.aspx#gcLx8Xk0PMLFjHuQ.99)


Our thanks to Master Chef Joyce Odam for today’s fine holiday repast! Note that today is the Winter Solstice; since the feast of St. Lucy once coincided with the Winter Solstice, her feast day has become a festival of light, and today’s littlenips encourage us to think in terms of lightness today, not darkness. Go out and enjoy yourself, the site says, since “different traditions mention feasting, gambling, playing pranks, giving gifts, visiting, drinking, dressing up, fornicating, putting on plays and staying up all night. During the dark of winter, invoke all the forces of pleasure and love, which make life worth living.”

Note also that our new Seed of the Week is Turning of the Year. Katy Brown’s cute kitten photo over there in the green box at the right of this column invokes Janus looking both ways at New Year’s (and the solstice): into the past, into the future. (Lots to write about, there!) Send your poems, photos, and artwork to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs—or having fun, and focusing on the lightness of being!



 Old Tintype