Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Wilderness of Quiet Land

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Now that she is nearly blind

she looks to life’s distortion

for relief. She drives

her car through shiny fog,

humming her driving song,

a bottle of champagne on her lap,

a tipsy glass on the dash.

In half-inch specs

she laughs and ‘sees’,

passing the Monet-cows in fields

and the boulevard stops

for other cars. She blurs past

the trees and wishes the road

were longer than it is.

She is on her way to grief,

but never arrives. She always

detours toward some little bar

where laughing and dancing people

are. She joins their fun,

putting her money in the

music-machine and singing along.

She orders wine and looks

through her half-inch glass

at the stars in the glass.

Her panting car waits in the

gravelly dusk. When she’s ready

to go, she leaves a large tip

for the stranger there, and she

clings to her champagne bottle for

a prop. And now she can see so well…

so well… she makes it home in style.

(first pub. in Among the Others (chapbook), 1999
Talent House Press, Talent, Oregon)



In the wilderness of quiet land,
you in your stalled car, woman of
phobias, shrink now to action. Two
strangers offer to help. You refuse.
You are the goal, yourself the
direction. All by yourself you have
put oil in the car, the service station
boarded up again, as though it never
existed. The Samaritans lose their
chance and return to their invisibility,
their chivalry wasted. The fog is a
dream; it cannot find you, though it
closes all the roads with earliness.
The roads and the day obliterate. Time
has no map for this land without
landmarks—this eye-shielding space
between farms—and you have no
wilderness-key. Adrift in
directionless gray, you have learned
three things to do: Sift through
the barbed wire threat of wrong directions;
escape the misleading sounds of the cows
with their ghost-bells ringing;
enter the instinctive window of the birds.
You find your way home.
Your children do not know you get lost.
They come home and find you…
they pull their day around you,
and your husband, the sad drinker,
finally says he loves you.

(first pub. in One Trick Pony, 1998)


Word by word, by bitter word
of grievances with which they play
on sympathy—although we gird
ourselves against the endless way

they list their wrongs—which is to say,
we cannot listen any more.
We try avoiding them. But they
recount their tallies—score by score.

There’s no way we can get the floor.
They are relentless with their woe.
No use to fake appointments or
make some excuse. We are too slow.

I guess, at least, it’s good to know
we help by listening. They leave—
unburdened for awhile—although
they’ve now become our own pet peeve.

Now we complain in such a weave
that seems to go from birth to grave.
Time lost. Time wasted. Life a grieve
that beats us down—wave after wave.



And when they go—down to the wild places where they
    go—the ancient crow and the old dog who are friends—
    they smile in the moonlight.

I have tried to follow them—under the wet trees, my shoes
    making no sounds, but they know I am behind them; they
    turn and look at me.

Now they are going there again, the half-blind crow on the
    gray shoulder of the limping dog, the crow guiding them
    along by the stars in brief-lit openings.

When they return I hear them brushing the walls with their
     torn shadows that mend by morning—

poor old creatures, tame and napping—one at my feet, the
     other on the coat rack by the door.


Tongue-in-cheek, you understood—it was
about the little things—it was the insignificant,

the unimportant things—that darkened the mind.
You somberly agreed.  We faced the night

full of our darkness. We noted the absence
of stars, the pollute of color that still hung.

We sucked the old wounds clean with our 
continuance of words. Our laughs were harsh

upon the harshness of each other. Our broken hearts
poured and poured their love upon the floor.

We stood in bloody shadows of commiseration
holding each other in our cynical desperation.



Old men, sitting on
Park benches  . . . I wonder what
They are thinking of  . . .
With their strong faces, and eyes
That stare into yesterday.


Did we take the heart out of
your Sunday?  So loudly did we
come to you on our fast motorcycle,

shaking the laughter of our cold ride
all over your quiet living room.
You went so deep in your chair

we thought we might have lost you
to the weariness and music that had
claimed your shrinking day.

We stayed just long enough
to eat your oranges and drink your beer
and watch your children fill the after-

noon with their gold energy.
Behind your glass-framed chair, through
pulling window-space, we watched the

wind say something to the grasses.
You were so quiet, we could hardly lift
your smile to its goodbye.  We

gathered-up ourselves to go; then
we waved back, as loudly as we could
to you, standing so small against

your house, before the swift cold blue
of five o’clock could freeze us
to your landscape, too.

(first pub. in Half Tones to Jubilee, 1998)


The country she has moved to

knows her better now

than the city that she left.

It has made her as quiet as a

cow munching on sweet grass;

it has wrapped her in its loose spaces

and when night domes down

it tells her how far the roads are

from town to town.

We keep waiting for her

in the noisy rooms

with wine in our eyes

and wounds of poetry in our hands.

I will be there, she smiles at us,

from the twelve page calendar,

and we know she will…

it’s just that

the spaces within her are wider now

and filled with dark,

and the house is a toy box

her children have put her away in

for the night,

and her husband comes home

an hour late to give her the car…

but by then she has listened to

the unfillable distance between us

that says too far.

(first pub. in Among the Others (chapbook), 1999
Talent House Press, Talent, Oregon)

 Annie Menebroker and Joyce Odam

Today’s LittleNip:


and they tumble by so fast . . .

  and I grab them . . .

     and they fall away . . .

        and they find me, 


           “Let me be poem . . .”

              and they stay . . .

                 and they play

                   with sense and 

                    arrangement until 

                    they like themselves,

                   one way or another . . .


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine photos and poems, all on the subject of Pals, our Seed of the Week. Her “Complainers” is a poetry form called a “carbon”. If you’ve a mind to, give the form a shot: abab, bcbc, cdcd, dede, efef.

Our new Seed of the Week is Skydiving Without a Parachute. 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 you can shake a pencil at.

Katy Brown sent me a note that she stumbled across the website for United Poets Laureate International and discovered that Davis Poet Laureate Emeritus Allegra Silberstein was their featured poet for July. See www.upli-wcp.org/poet-and-poems-for-the-month-of-august-2016. Thanks, Katy!


Celebrate poetry, and our poetry pals within it!

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