Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Compassionate Grasses

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


In your garden, I am lost soil.
I am unplanted flower.
I am pressed stone.

               .     .     .

I am in the side shadow of light
waiting for you to turn and say, “Oh”.
But you are bending and looking
into the discovery that is everywhere.

               .     .     .

The grapes that you hold are beautiful.
The tiny tomatoes are sweet.
The lemons are full of sunlight.

               .     .     .

I move through the spaces after you
but they close around me even as I speak.

               .     .     .

You move toward the dogs,
laughing and calling their names.
Each of them in turn runs up to you
for the rough touch of your affection.

(first pub. in Chaminade Literary Review, 1990)


I come upon a Welcome sign: a single house set
back among the trees; green, stretching to a hill-
line that curves into a cloudless sky; here and
there clumps of flowers, no sign of anyone about,
although an old dirt road goes slowly by to signify
that someone comes and goes here.  

Day is captured in the lack of any sound: no bark
of dog—no song of bird—not even wind in trees
—and yet, this Welcome sign, turned just enough
into shadow that I cannot make out its words.

And where am I in all of this—but somewhere
just as far—somewhere just as deep—as hidden
from the world as seems this cryptic place—the
white frame house sunk deeper now into the trees,
the other shadows releasing over the ground; and
I receding back into the now—the Welcome sign
all but blurred—and still, no car or person—and
still, no dog or bird.

(first pub. in The Poet’s Forum, 1998/1999)


We are down to
our nitty gritty now
hands deep in the soil of decision
crumbling the earth
and saying it is
good soil
suitable for our avid weeds and
bitter radishes.

We work the stones
to where we want them:
I leave mine where they are
to conduct sun-warmth;
you throw yours in a path
to walk upon.

We are difficult farmers
ever at odds with
the methods of each other,
never in rhythm with the crop,
watering when it rains,
harrowing the cracks in drought.

(first pub. in Coffee and Chicory, 1994)



I wonder if I’ll ever learn the way.
I wonder if the way will ever change.
Just fold the map. It might be fun to stray—
not know if I’ll get lost, if night will fall
on wilderness, the landscape dark and strange,
with underbrush through which no one can crawl,

through dirt roads with no signs—no center line.
I guess I’m not a wanderer after all,
content now with a place already  mine:
my wants all settled for, if not exact:
windows, roof, and door—and on the wall,
a Blessings Sampler. Everything intact . . .

yet wonder if I’ll ever learn the way
through dirt roads with no signs—no center line.

(for Lisa)

Today I washed the round bone that we
argued about—that I would not let you keep,
though you were the one who found it
in my yard. 

It reminds me of something I love, I said,
to win the argument; 
I want to wear it
on a chain, or keep it in my jewelry box.

Today I washed it with the dishes. It was dirty
from just sitting around so long, unworn. Now
it is clean and priceless once again, and next time
you come to visit I think I’ll give it to you.

(first pub. in the first issue of Rattlesnake Review, 2004)


Know this of me, that I will search the wind for
your last touch. I will become a scavenger of
every breeze for something of you I have known.

Often I hear compassionate grass lean to a sound
and mourn against the soil in ravaged listening,
then sigh against my legs and tell me you are here.

Our energies converge. Nothing of what we are to
one another is spent, but borne through all the filters
of awareness.

My hands enclose the living emptiness to treasure
you; the bending of my fingers makes a sound of
love upon the wind for you to hear. My pulse works

The chasm of our distance storms with angry love,
and I can feel you miss me in the lashing of all grow-
ing things. There is a wailing in the air when love
shreds on the pangs of loneliness.

Nothing is lost. I answer with a yielding you will feel
upon the wind’s return.


Today’s LittleNip:


I weave rags for the air. Great hands come
wiping, fill them with soil for my washing. 
I am their weaver.

Without me, they would have no purpose—
without them, I would have no art.


Many, many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and photos, including the small blue, wild chicory she found in the field just down the block. Joyce was writing today to the Seed of the Week: New Soil.

Our new SOW is Wild Horses. Send your poetry, photos and artwork about this (or any other!) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs; for SOWs from the past, click on Calliope’s Closet at the top of this column.


Great Egret
(Anonymous Photo) 
 Celebrate poetry today!

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