Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Rhythm of the Road

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Now she is dressed for
the funeral,
conservative in brown; her

hair is a wild entanglement
though she
combs and combs it down; the

sun is singing—she will
get through this day of
relatives and sighs.  She never

cries.  Her stocking gets a run.
The clock takes so long
to pass the appointed hour, its

hands hanging on to every
moment.  She stares at
the room.  It will be over soon.


Wearing the light now
you are illuminated and
your edges shine.

All around you
is a path
that winds softly under your feet.

You are turned
both toward me
and away from me.

I can see you are transparent.
The mist of your presence
is very fragile.

I want to touch you,
but you shudder.
I am afraid I might break you.

You become filled
with energy
and compress.

You enter shadows
that escort your darkness
into their hiding place.




Good-Mood Daddy
dances up
puts his arm
around his lady
hums her name
in voice so pretty
breathes her fragrance
struts his claim
purrs he loves her
all she hears.

(first pub. in Poets' Forum Magazine, 2006)


The violin speaks in the voice of my
grandfather.  It occupies a space
of its own, its music far away

in the minds of dead listeners.
I listen, but cannot hear
what they heard.

I envision the touch of its wood
and follow the curves of its design.
It boasts no word like Stradivarius

I think it may have been a fiddle.
My memories collect in its silence.
Maybe it no longer exists—

like my grandfather. 
I hear it now,
It strains over me with tears,

with such a deep anguish
that I weep in return for what
is becoming a loss that never was mine.



In July of 1994, Paul Tsunami
bought a book at Barnes & Noble . . .

in August of 1994
you died . . .

Paul Tsunami bought a Stephen Dunn book
in Barnes & Noble, called Between Angels,

in August, you died, between angels
and non-angels, believed and not believed.

If there is a connection here,
I have forced it so.

I don’t know who Paul Tsunami is
and how I chanced upon his book,

marked down in a used bookstore
somewhere between 1994

and the year
two thousand and one—

seven years dead.
I paid $4.50 for an $8.95 book—

half of the value closely enough figured.
Haphazard, like death.

like the need to catalog events and needs—

to put things in place
when the mind is groping for distraction.


At once I know them,
by their weeping.

Voices abandoned by souls,   
by fathers, by time itself.

Why do I love them still—
patiently, in spite of—

these haunted voices.
I listen.  Whisper.  Answer?



A little streak of light—
a flash—
the size of a small blue mouse
at the peripheral,

but it wakened you from
a momentary stupor
where you lost something of value
but cannot say what it was.

Something slipped 
and between—
something innocent and dear.

You almost felt the love it bore away,
like a small regret.
It caught you by surprise.
You want it back.

It took the time you needed to reclaim it
like a lost beat of your heart—
a flutter of thought that
escaped into heart’s loss.


Her left arm was always more tanned
than the other from resting it
on the window edge as she drove.

I would get carsick from watching
the scenery too close.  Don’t look
at scenery so close, she’d say.

As long as she had her little car,
we had the freedom to come and go,
come and go, come and go.

And back and forth we’d go: between
rainy Washington… Oregon…
and sunny California.

My California arm, she’d laugh,
with her left arm out the window—
fast wind tangling her hair.  She’d sing.

I’d fall asleep in the back seat—
listening to the car engine—
feeling the rhythm of the road.

The car would break down somewhere
but she’d always manage to get it
started—or find someone who could. 


Later—from her wheelchair—she’d laugh
and sigh: you know what I miss most . . .?
It was driving my little car . . . .


I felt the time turn in the distance, and the glow
wait to be dawn, and I heard the drone of the first
plane fly over the day, and I felt a connection.
And I stopped in the middle of a word to say another
word; and I felt a whole scenario change in my head.
And I felt a distance gather me, and I gave up my
poem to the distance. And I thought I heard a rustle
of rain, and though I listened as hard as I could,
it was not the rain, but my listening that I heard.
And I felt the moment—like a power that I had to
know its moment. And I grew greedy, and looked
around for more, but I had to pay for that with a
loss. And I want to tell you about that, too, but I
looked up at the clock, and the thin scrap of paper
under my pen was coming to its own end. And I
guess what I want to say is not to be said—not
now, and maybe never—but I’ll take what I can
of it and be thankful for all this awareness that
lets me grope on, word by word.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine, fine poems and photos, winding up our current Seed of the Week: Fathers. Our new Seed of the Week is Passages. Send your poems, photos and artwork about this (or any other) subject to kathykieth@hotmail.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for more than you can shake a pencil at.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

          “although they are / only one breath…” 

I have as many as I need
yet fumble for those lost—

the ones that held poems back
from completion.

Words have no substitutes
for themselves,

else why this futile search—
the way love searches

for love
when love can’t be found.




—Anonymous Photo
Celebrate poetry!


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