Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Call it Green, Like Youth

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Here in the dusk, by a slow bright stream,
the unmindful child—
ever at the brink of curiosity,
with childlike faith and followings—
comes to sit on the bank and listen to
the moving water shimmer past.

And the bushes sigh with disturbance,
and the dark trees whisper.

And the musing child—in the dusk—
in the rippling moonlight—
sits stroking the make-believe rabbit
the child would love to keep and love.
And high in the trees now, in the dark,
a Cheshire cat sits purring.


After Young Girl in the Park, 1957 by Tsugouhara Foujita (1886-1968)

You are fenced in with the roses, stroking the demented
cat that squirms against you. Behind you, park-goers are
unaware of your domestic wilderness. In distances of time,
their lives are lived in theirs—and you in yours.

As the timeless day recedes, they become even smaller—
growing backwards into a previous history, while you never
move past this moment. The possessive roses preen around
you in the last low light, sheathing their thorns, the revelers
but tiny silhouettes now, specks of darkness, proof of your
imprisonment. The trees have overgrown the meadow. Light
has softened there as well as where you are.

Look away, mind-dreaming child. Unfasten your gaze—
your strange melancholy—the mindless way you hold
onto your childhood, which is in the overshadowed meadow
with the revelers.



Where is it—the old sour trace of a memory—
co-mingled, more bearable than interesting; 

is it not better than grief, which is stale—like the
white bread of childhood, buttered and sugared? 

But there is not enough relevance for such
an ambiguous thought—there is the beautiful

blue flame of the gas burner where toast was
made on a held fork that grew hot to your touch.

But that is a different story—also half-forgotten
in exchange for another. What is it that was sour?

Oh, the milk in the ice box by the small piece of
melting ice.  But, is that not part of your mother’s

memory, something that shifts between the mirror
and the face, her secret-secrets, her non-tellings—

all the years of empty gaps—child and mother—
the cold bathrooms down the long and

desperate halls with their stolen light bulbs to light 
the darkness there—all the ghosts of feared things

—everything pushed back—and farther back—
and rancid in your teeming consciousness?

 How'd It Do That?


Call it green, like youth,
like love before it betrays itself,
like any place together or apart—

like any sentiment
before it turns to cynicism,
or the bitter taste that will be next.

Erase this from your heart—you have
a chance—impossible at best—despite all
love’s disclaimers who will preach and preach.


RED STAR           

I would do this star red
I would put glue on the back of it
and store it in a box with others

I would do this star for a child’s forehead
for a domestic task
efficiently done

I would be good to deserve it
it is for myself this star
that I give to my childhood

I am an obedient achiever
here is my star it used to be gold
it used to be in the
right hand corner of blue lined paper
that I had written my assignment on

laborious hand
so correct in its spelling
telling my teachers nothing that I knew

oh sad and sorry world and praisers
what shall I do with a red star that
worries and bleeds
like a sore that I pick
with smooth-surfaced fingers

(first pub. in Impulse Press, l978)

 Two and Four Make Six

After Child, o/c, Yasuo Kunihoshi, 1923
Wooden child, wooden child,
in flawed perspective—

once a doll—
now a child,

or so
it thinks—

eyes painted

looking through the shadowed light
to find its life.

It…  It… 
figment of whimsied mind.

Forever’s darling, mouth buttoned
from cry or word—

not heard.



It is this walking
across stones
in a shallow stream

the water flowing
your balance easy—

no vertigo,
you know how to
measure way

from bank to bank
and not fall in,
though slippery,

the stones so
round, with tiny fish
darting,    darting,

and the sunlight
glinting and glint-
ing as you cross

your childhood
and your memory of it.



Strings of beads fall broken from the throats
of angels—do they do that on purpose—
leave them like clues as they soar—

float—or simply materialize in the minds of,
say, lost children—in forests—on their
way through fairy tales?

I have picked up many beads from such necklaces,
knowing they will become old-woman tears.
I do not understand this.

 Woe Leaves


This is where we take the different ending :
the walk on the beach
in that peculiar light—
the sea immense and lonely.
“Oh,” you protest,
“we can’t say the sea is lonely.”

This is where we take the delicate ending :
the walk on the particular beach
at a particular time,
approaching some object
made of dark light
that seems to be moving.
When we near it,
it is the disheveled doll
left by our childhood
that seems to remember us,
for we pick it up and hold it.
It is so cold and wet and
featureless. It gasps like a kitten, and expires.

This is where we take the difficult ending :
walking the roiling beach in winter light,
leaving the doll behind.
The sea rocks and moans over the doll,
retrieving it in its foaming arms.

This is where we take the desperate ending :
You look back and tell me
what you see.
I don’t look back.
I am watching a seagull swooping and crying
into the sea’s defining loneliness.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

I have dreamed them, soft as
lullabies from ache of childhood,

songs that come in fragments
and tease—

tease for the missing line
or word,

songs that haunt
like a broken need—

old lost songs
sung only by the ghosts.


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for talking about youth for our Seed of the Week, My Misspent Youth, today! Our new Seed of the Week is Eyes. 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 plenty of others to choose from.


 Celebrate poetry! And if you’re of a mind to take a
short road trip, head up the hill to El Dorado Hills today, 
5-7pm, for Poetry Off-the-Shelves at the EDH Library, 
7455 Silva Valley Pkwy. Scroll down to the blue column 
(under the green column at the right) for info about 
this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—
and note that more 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.