Am I not the one with the heart made of lead,
eyes made of brass—hands without touch
through gloves of numb—am I not that one…?
I saw the peacock spread its fan,
and I wept for all women
vainer than seduction with its pretty ways:
how they preened back—in spite of
memory’s sweet haze. Never mind that:
I am the one without words enough to say
the deep yearn that lives
next to the leaden throb—the one
who pines away—who will foolishly sob.
I am in a room of many women
each alone from the other
each a container of stories
each a silence worth listening to…
our dresses touch when we pass each other
in soft aversive movements
when we are waiting our turns,
when we are measuring our restlessness…
shall we escape…
shall we be here forever in our
alien kinship—who are uniquely alike—
who are divided by our difference…
(prev. pub. in Calliope, 1992-93)
A STUDY OF WOMEN
The women ignore him. They are
dark and round in the dim room-light.
They are immersed in their silence.
His hands are the denied hands
of an artist; he has only his eyes
and his eyes cannot hold them.
The women shudder and change;
they have felt his shadow touching
among them. Some of them merge
and become one another to confuse
him. He speaks the name of one.
She moves toward him
with a look of pity. They embrace.
She turns back to the others
and disappears among them.
A DISTORTION OF WOMEN
after Postcard (La Carte Postale) by Fernard Leger
The women pose in a small rectangle
amid scribble-lines of separation.
A pillar sways with distortion.
A wild rose slowly imposes itself
An imperfect yellow flower
grows from the curving stem of the rose.
The pillar assumes the shape
of the women.
The scribbled border
shifts in accommodation.
The women turn into pillars.
Composure is their skill.
They are your dread
and your waiting.
Serenity is built into them.
Their faces are not yet sad.
Their eyes still remember you.
STAGES OF THE EVENING
after Baccarat at Deauville, 1928 by Raoul Dufy
The party was just getting started, mirrors flattering all the
faces. Polite laughter. Murmurings. Women posed for each
other—self-admiring in low-cut gowns and shiny stockings,
necklaces glittering at their throats or hanging down their
backs. Men grouped together in little conversational pre-
tensions, leaning attentively into the brightness and sound.
The party was gaining its momentum. A waiter dropped a tray.
A woman put her hand on a man’s lapel; another fanned herself
in agitation. Someone laughed. Someone took offense. The men
gravitated toward the bar. A fading woman sat by herself in the
middle of the din—gradually coming apart with each sigh of
pity for her situation.
The party was dwindling. The room’s brightness glared. There
were disconnections in conversations and in the way the
revelers glazed through each other. The women were tired of
posing. Waiters carried empty trays with professional dexterity.
Musicians had not returned from their break. Someone aud-
aciously told someone else’s fortune.
The party was over, the people just waiting for time to close
over them. Some stood with their backs to the mirrors. Some
stood rigid, and some just leaned against the silence. The
waiters carried heavy trays toward the doors. The room was
losing detail—all the color washed out—everything turning
into a scribble—only a sketch remaining.
THE WOMEN WHO WERE SUMMONED
the women who were rumored to be here
in the rooms
with the tyrannies of shadows
in the alcoves
where voices are murmuring
in the hallways
comforting the silences
but in the rooms
only a rustling…
in the alcoves
only fading echo…
in the hallways
only a turning at the end…
the women who were summoned
are not here
(prev. pub. in CQ, 1993)
THE ROOMS OF WEEPING WOMEN
From empty rooms, the suffering sound of women—no
women there—only their crying—only the familiar
chill of my listening. The rooms are bright, sunlight
everywhere; there are no dark corners where they might
be hidden. No, they are not hidden there. I feel I know
them; that they used to call me Dear, though I denied
their soft endearments that they used to comfort me. Now
I would comfort them, but I can’t find them.
Standing before the windows, I can see the shape of their
tears; they weep in the doorways and I can feel their
presence when I brush through; the scent of their perfume
is damp, like smothered incense on a dying day. All day
they press their thick invisibility everywhere; their over-
whelming thoughts empower me; I am in danger of their
grief. Their dark thoughts cross my mind; I almost remember—
I am almost ready to hear what they want to tell me.
THESE WOMEN WHO ARE OLD
these women who are old
who wear lost love on their faces
who fear the cold of their years
as they fear the
the door at the end
of a thin hallway
their little room of self
talk narrowed down
to soft derisions
they are found
in the awfullest of mirrors
to their confusion
buttoning their robes
with fragile hands
each day eating smaller
until they are weaned of food
only their thoughts
feed them now
their houses are turning sour
and the walls
are pouring grief on everything
and their names are signed
on all those papers
that float out
into the swimming waters
grown too deep
and full of murkiness
where they will simply let them
blur and soften
and the ink will float off
with all they had to say
and hush into
the sad safety of dying
I am walking out on a long pier where fishermen bend
over their lines in the water. One of them asks me the
time, but I am watching a seagull and will not answer.
The children here are surrealistic children, disattached
from their other lives in the importance of now and here.
The women at the far end of the pier have made a home
there with blankets and lunch and chairs, domestic women
who answer my questions—my intrusive questions about
how long they will stay and how long they have been here.
I go away from them with my camera toward the sea-gulls
that disappear at the moment I find them. One man in a
business suit and helmet wants a hasty fish, but his hands
are clean, and the eyes of all the fishermen are averted toward
the water where the catch is hidden.
I stand and look over the wooden wall with the names
carved on it of those who belong. I am a fisherman of
sound and feeling—of the healing immensity of this place,
and I think that tomorrow I will bring my blanket and
food and chair and learn to live here like the women of
WOMEN OF BONES
COME OFF THE MOUNTAIN
women of bones come off the mountain
their songs are left echoing behind them
they have told their children they will
return by morning
they have deliberate eyes that
look until they find
in the taverns the men are pretending
to enjoy their beer
and challenged games of pool
their dollar bills lie wrinkled on the bar
they are bored of jukebox music
and each other
and think they will go home to wives
as at a chill of memory
when the women are suddenly there
looking at them
with no smile
and no compromise
and sipping tomato beer
the men look closely
but cannot see
the mountain’s green darkness
within the women who
have bare feet and tangled hair
who have come for more children
to take back alone
back to the mountain
(prev. pub. in 13th Moon, 1977)
…I am a fisherman of sound and feeling…
“I saw the peacock spread its fan.” Heartfelt thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine fotos and poems, riffing on our recent Seed of the Week: Women, celebrating Women’s History Month. Our new SOW for this coming week is Silence. Sound and silence are woven through Joyce’s work, as she plays on all the senses and doesn’t get caught in the customary spider’s web of sight-images only. Can you write about silence? Don’t be shy—give it a shot, and send your poems, photos and artwork on this (or any other) subject to firstname.lastname@example.org/.
This week let’s shake up the troops and set a deadline: if you send me poems/photos/artwork about Silence before midnight Sunday, March 13, I’ll send you a copy of the latest WTF, free of charge! Such a deal! Of course, you can miss the deadline, too, and send a poem anytime; the world will remain intact, you just won’t receive a WTF. That's midnight, Sunday, for a free WTF.