Tuesday, August 02, 2016

My Memory House

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Late summer.
Sundown. A long empty beach.
Thinning cries of gulls.
Slow shushing of the waves
—only my footprints on the gray,
wet sand. I am singing to myself.

My memory house is somewhere
up ahead with all its lights on,
but I am not late. 

The waves rush up, and back,
leaving small tickles of foam
and gold flecks on my feet.
The slow, circling gulls
scold my presence.
But I do not hurry, or mind
their scolding. This is my time
to own all this—even them.

(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine)


I cannot describe the place except for the
arched doorway with the fringed awning,
and an iron railing to a small slanted stairway
that curved into a blank wall, and a car that
was parked by the curb. I think it was raining;
the streets were shimmery, and a figure made
of wet shadow brushed by me and went inside.

The car settled into its waiting and fastened to
its reflection. The white wall-face of the building
was streaked with old rain and a wet gray light
that faded deeper into it. The street seemed to
end here—a dead-end place with no further
turnings and no one to ask where I was.

I think I was cold. The building stayed dark.
The doorway did not open again. I stood for a
long time and listened to the soft falling of the
rain and tried to memorize the feeling of this place
that had shifted forward in time—or I had shifted
backward into it—I’m not sure which was real.


After Peaceful Harbor by Kathy Mitchell (Mouth Painter)
In a little sea-town—the white boats; only their
reflections move with the deep movement of the
water. Diluted colors take on the floating colors
of the sky; match the strange absence of sound
in the indeterminate hour. Is this a mirage of
memory—a stopping of time that waits for this?
Why such stillness? Why such quiet: where are
the people; where are the birds; where the slow-
moving shapes of fish in their element, swimming
through the white clouds and the shimmering
masts with no curiosity? Who but the very patiently
dedicated could capture all I remember from that
long ago?  I grow homesick for the reality in the


again, in fantasy’s lament, old news still bad, same old
yearnings, why return, and return, like this—
same old hallways, dim, thin-rugged, anonymous,

all the doors with open transoms—shadow movements in
the cracks of light beneath the doors—a child singing in
the community bathtub at the end of the hall, composing

her first mermaid song.  Or is it just a composite place,
the years in representation, the years in swift review,
erroneous.  It’s the old shining pattern : a glimmer of

the past like a reflection on water, everything in subdued
diffusion : the voice behind you : the abstract embrace :
the fall through the mirror.  It’s the way light falls on

your inner darkness, like a probe.  Detail sorts itself out
on a plane of travel—like a map—an old used map—
out of date—a map to the wrong place, but one

you have to follow or get lost there.  Well, mark
your way—you’ll wind up here.  It always ends that way.


Out of the harsh landscape comes the lone shadow,
out of the gray stone,
out of the gray hour—the vanishing sky—

the bodiless shadow, so lost there is no place for it,
only this desolation, this astounding wilderness—
no creature or vegetation, no line of horizon

or relief of water—nothing here but the slow shadow,
displaced from its life, or its dream, or only created
for the duration of this poem.



Of all the places I would bide
and would return to when I need
to heal—to rue the roads I took
where all the detours led too far,

with only me for guide
—and nothing there to heed
but all that I forsook
without a guiding star—

to die inside
without a creed
—no backward look
without a scar.


Each of us ghost to the other, we plink the piano in-between
yearnings and quarrels—play for the random sounds of our
untalented hands, sensing the moods of our withdrawing.

You play with your eyes closed so as not to see me, I with
my eyes intent on some music sheet I cannot read.

What discord we make, mixed with the thunder bothering
the heavens and the lightning threatening the windows.
We are in different rooms of our love—blurred and
wavering in the destroying light.

Soon silence interrupts us and we fall weeping into each
other’s absence.


Where would I go to hide the self from its great care
—what Innisfree find
to simply love,
and be,
and heal
from the self
that I have made,
and has been made by others.

What mountain, or shore-place—or even city’s core
—what closet small enough
to brace against—
keep in,
keep out,
whatever I want.

Oh, the world is bleak and sore
and I bear all its wounds sometimes
and would heal somewhere in a safe place
of my choosing—hold myself there like a doll—
take myself inward until peace and balance
returned, and once more
thought would not destroy me.

Where?, I wonder, where could that be?
—that simple place that needs
my solitude—,
for I would be my own stone-tossed center
as my layers smoothed, and stillness happened.


Mighty thanks to the small-but-mighty poet Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and sketches about our past Seed of the Week, Homesickness. A multi-talented, tough little cookie she is, still setting off explosions in her 90’s.

Our new Seed of the Week is Babies, human or otherwise. 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 SOWs than at which you can shake a pencil.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam
for purple candles
and for music
for some lazy time of

for light that falls in a
certain way

where you like to look
there light the candles
play the music

let your thoughts be tranquil
close away
whatever needs closing

in a place of private storage
under purple tassels
and embossed shadow

leave open what you love
life is yours
give it your happiness



 Celebrate poetry tonight at 5pm by
 heading up to El Dorado Hills 
for the new Poetry Off-the-Shelves 
read-around series at the EDH Library. 
Scroll down to the blue box (under the 
green box at the right) for info about this 
and other upcoming readings in our area—
and note that other events may be added at the last minute.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.