Tuesday, April 05, 2016

April Stanzas

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I watch the treetops swishing in the air; their joy
(or agitation) is what my watching gives them.

That small dark bird—but a shape of quick
movement—gone before I can name him.

This row of drooping yellow roses, held up
by the iron fence, so generous with their petals.

The trees are too quiet here. The sky gathers
its moving shades of gray. It is hard to breathe.

A purple lady—walking fast— almost falls
swerving to miss a leaf-shadow, or a pavement flaw.

Two men with a basket of cans share
their green bottle of morning wine, jovial together.

That quick brown dog turns an abrupt corner—
surprised—his shadow continues down the sidewalk.



Two men work the morning, their carts overflowing
with bright aluminum cans that glint and rattle with
the cart’s movements over the sidewalk. Cans
push over the top and clatter to the street
but the men look between driveways
and along curbs for even more salvage.

Between houses they pause and

take turns lifting the shared green bottle to their lips
and laugh at something one of them has said. Their
quick brown dog goes nosing ahead—impatient
with importance—darting in and out of their
attention, finding its own sweet joy in the
heady sunshine and April’s giddy flowers.


my death sits waiting
with gifts of apples
in his lap
smiling into the direction
from which i will come
and practicing
the word he will say

it is a brimming afternoon
everything lazy and green
and young
and he has eloquent eyes
for me to enter
when I see him waiting there
as if all time
were his to have
beneath that tree

(first pub. in Sou’wester, 1971, Southern Illinois Univ.)


(after The Straw Manikin, 1791, Goya)

Well, look at you, limp clown, poor fool, at the whim of
four young women who toy with you on their makeshift
blanket trampoline—they toss and toss you up between
them to watch you fall back down as they play their care-
less game of power—their rag-doll boy, their handsome
toy—while they hold the blanket-corners tighter so you’ll
bounce higher. Their dark eyes shine; their faces flush.
Time and again you fill the yellow air with your clumsy
grace—positioning comical so they can laugh at you,
while you stagger-dance your legs, and flail your arms,
and twist your head around in shock-face helplessness.
Each time the low sky catches you, it throws you back
to them, until some late and moody chill of air cramps
to their hands, and some darker game occurs to them.


love is the fool
I am its audience
it does what makes me laugh

it postures about on the stage
in mimicry

it believes in itself
and tells me I am its tender fool
its terrible person
the reason it suffers



love is a balancing act—a walk across
swift-moving water on a swaying wire

you’re unafraid—even foolhardy—
trusting in your partner

who is unsure—has vertigo


New kid in school.
As always.

The teasing.

in the closing circle
of girls pulling around me—

one girl exclaiming,
Oh, look! 
You’ve got a butterfly on your shoe.

Oh, how I brightened—
the other girls watching . . .    
waiting . . .

I looked down at my shoe.
No butterfly
The girl shouted, April Fool.



What is this feeling that comes over me?
I hear a dove and sense a loneliness.

A tiny sparrow makes me want to cry.
Oh, Fie!  That strange word.

How can a word come back like that
from nowhere?

Makes no sense to be so close to tears :
something as simple as a texture,

or a tone
of someone’s voice.

What do I miss this moody day
that overwhelms me so?


What kind of day is this
for April Fools.

We fought the day
and found it full of anger
and old rules.

We fought the way
we loved each other less
and blamed each other more.

How slow we were to speak
then not to speak.

I think we paid too much
for all this grief.

I think we might have
saved ourselves
at some far turn.

Or maybe not.
I am no longer sure.


“Can unhappiness kill you?”
     “Yes, oh yes.

“Will I die, then?”
     “Yes, oh yes.”

“Will you cry for me?”
     “Oh yes.”

Today’s LittleNip:


It is the first morning of April.
Everyone is out mowing lawns.

I am drinking an early wine and
listening to stereo
and reading my own poetry.

I am sullen and sad.
It has been a long, hard quarrel.


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for starting off our April Tuesday right with her fine poems and pix, and a note that our new Seed of the Week is Junk Shop. Send your poems, photos, and artwork about same to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.