Tuesday, June 20, 2017


—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


My father in a soft moonlight,
waiting for some dream to waken him . . .

I listen to him crying
but he doesn’t know I am his daughter.

He suffers from failure—that, and some
lost love. My imagination cannot save him.

He stares at a small gray river.
The water-moon quivers his face.

He thinks that love has abandoned him.
My mother stands watching from

her own sad distance—I look
from one to the other and cry out to them.

(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2015)


Father is a crude wooden carving outside the front door. 
Mother won’t let him in. He has pegs for arms and a lap
to sit on where we can change shoes. His expressionless
eyes stare out—painted a dull and listless brown. He does
not know what he has become.

Mother says that next time we move she’s just going to
leave him there—in the rain—in the sun—in the traveling
winds that wear him down. She says that we’ve got to quit
carrying him from place to place—from year to year. She
says we’ve got to quit even remembering him anymore.



and years grew fast and long between us,
leaving me only Mother.

This is not a complaint—or a cry.
I don’t know what it is.

Perhaps a door that I cannot open—
or close.

Perhaps there should be only the doorway
and no door—an opening

that is the fatherless world—
and no walls around it, to signify no house.

You were not a house, Father; only a door.
With a turn of the knob

you exited.
I still write Why on the wall that is not there.



I am a press
     of leaf-saving…

I open my book
     and everything
          falls out, th-
               e delicate
                    and places
               of words that
          are stained
     with their
     just as you, Fa-
ther, just as you…

 Heart and Soul


I imagine him playing a flute
in a long wet corridor
walled in stone.

I imagine him mysterious,
facing the east with burning eyes,
and at night the west.

I imagine him father to some burning child
made of melting bone, with soul of cold fire
and mouth holding an old moan.

I imagine a long cold note of sadness
that he cannot hear
floating between us in the closing air.

This is the fatherless year
of devastation
when all things break and are gone . . .

I imagine my father . . .
broken . . .
gone . . .

 Quiet Circles

After CD Jacket, girl with butterfly and two birds

Your hands are too small
to hold all that you desire.
The live butterfly
caught in your hair
will not love you for long.

The tethered swallow
you keep on a string
will escape
back to the wall paper.

The beautifully feathered bird
you hold on a stick
will lose its will to fly away.

You are too innocent for such power—
to keep all that life as yours,
to possess and try to tame—
standing there in all your defiance,
as if you dare not believe me. 



I float upon calm water surface
bobbed gently
rocking nowhere
no tide.

The dolls float beside me
their rigid arms upraised
their faces staring at a sky.
Is that a sky
or ceiling;
is this a sea
or room?

The dolls multiply;
they wear my dresses.
(How did they get that large?)
At last they touch me.
I terrify.
My many eyes assess my mirrors.
The walls stream.
The room is raining on the sides.
The dolls are sighing . . .
breathing . . .

I multiply,
my struck selves touching
coping with the mystery
of looking for who I am . . .
my many lives.

I hear the light bristle
full of inflections
touching the glass of all my clothing
like shock-costumes
I must wear through scenes . . .

ever back toward my mother
who is always at the edges
floating huge dolls out to me
on all her fragile sighing strings.

(first pub. in Maryland Poetry Review, 1989)


ORPHAN POEM           

paints a sun
makes it round
and yellow

draws spikes of warm
into the ground
where the grass
is hard lines of green

the dog
with all its legs
on one side
smiles at the face of
a flower

and the boy
and the girl
with the straight-stick
arms and legs
are brother and sister

and the smiling
mother and father
are looking
at the boy and the
girl and the
dog and the

and the house
with the black curls
climbing from the chimney
stands behind them all
and is very happy

and the blue blue sky
with the fluffy
white clouds
is full of birds

draws them singing

 Night and Day


And there you are—
my sister, whom
I have lost so many times.

This time you come to me as a doll
with all your emotion smoothed
to a cold perfection.

How I envy you this—ageless
and without the wear, while
I wear the patina for both of us.

And why are you the silent one
with no question?
Why this return?

Where have you been? What
journey? What experience?   
Did Mother send you?

I ache with an old loneliness.
You look at me in the old blank way.
Did you know our father?



Dear Old Dad, the one I never had—
Here’s to you, Father.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

My father
who was Adam
had one weakness;
he was acquiescent.
And he died
blaming my mother
for his chronic

(first pub. in
The Muse, 1961)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her original artwork today and her poems about fathers, never an easy subject for Joyce, who—well, her poems say it all. “Dads” was our past Seed of the Week; our new one is Sudden Heat. What kind of sudden heat? Weather? Fire? Anger? Lust? Menopause? 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!

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