FROM PURSE TO PURSE
She takes this old purse to empty it? Oh, what it holds:
years of wrinkle and crumple—notes and reminders all
clipped together or wrapped up tightly in rubber bands.
All that business, stuffed-in against the darkening leather
that sours and molds, everything kept together for the
handiness. She has so many errands, so many appoint-
ments, so many lists and telephone numbers—the coins
that slip down among the receipts—the keys that fit the
guarded locks of necessity—too important to lose.
THE JEWEL BOX
The jewel box is as old as any valued jewel.
Or it is not.
It was empty then, and then
Its history is limited,
at least unknown.
We give it that.
What does it hold of value,
or of love:
long-kept things, half-forgotten now,
or emptied, for a gift—
a treasure passed along
that’s full of strangeness,
as a keeper of secrets—what it knows
if one could ask,
almost sacred for its private worth,
a place one should not pry.
Its tiny drawers hold only as much,
as they hold, whatever was worth keeping.
After Thursday by John Moore
What is so empty as
after the day that is spent?
An empty room implies as much.
Old light gone.
New light slanting in.
The view is the same—the chairs
that waits for the new occupant.
The high windows keep the view
to themselves—the city—huge
outside the bird-height windows.
Thursday—another day between
two others—few clues—except for
the well-kept memories of the walls.
BLUE GLASS IN SLOW LIGHT
In a room stunned with light
the long soft hours slow—
not even the dust moves—
not a sound—only the
warm soft glow of light
through glass placed there
in harmony of arrangement,
in transparency of textures,
the roundness and roundness
of objects placed together
in level after level of overlap—
blue escaping blue—the light
pouring through—made tangible.
It is not the glass . . . it is not
the glass . . . it is the light.
THE CAPTURED PERSPECTIVES OF GLASS
After Ballet of the Woodpeckers by Rebecca Horn, 1986
in these mirrors
stab glass images of
the in and out of light
the positioning of each to each
so no mirror can escape the other
all are level
with ceiling, walls, and floor
with depth and spaciousness
how can light
decide which way to go?
can mental birds get in?
go through? get out?
I took her land and made a map,
drew little homes upon it
and arrows to where I wanted to be.
I had no land like that. Mine was
packed and unpacked in little suitcases
until it grew as small
as sand in a tiny sand-bottle.
I never knew time could crumble
like that. I moved the miles around until
I found one I wanted to keep.
I stayed-put until my roots went deep.
I named her land my land.
I made a flag made of her scarf.
Her initials became my initials.
The year we took the tiny Xmas tree to her in our suitcase
full of death, where she would not look at it—its tiny
packages of sham, its twinkling lights, its awkward orna-
ments; oh, there was snow that time—her window bragged
of it. We took our boots and gloves and made an errand
for the thrill of being out in it. Her eyes pursued, sup-
pressed, and would not let us stay, though when we
brought our errands back she would not look at us, but
looked inside herself, and pulled us in to be there, too.
Oh, it was small, and dark, and old. She pulled us in to
where she was, until we fit.
THE BROKEN SELF
After Untitled Ink Drawing by Kathi Van De Kieft
Is she suffering brokenness,
opening up all her emotions
like that—an explosion of all she is.
Intact. Then broken?
She must cry to restore.
There is too much space. The loss
of one fragment means loss of the whole.
The parts drift inward.
She must examine the accusation of the mirror.
sharp-edged and dangerous : broken glass
without the protection of silver.
What must it do to find the sharded center?
All the scars of love are examined now :
in pieces, enlarged by the examining heart,
the one to blame—the self—within all
this mending, condemning and consoling.
IN TRANSIENCE: c.1936
The woman of sad experience is tearing up her letters. They
are turning into ashes. A matchstick hangs like a scar from
the art of her fingers. Her suitcase is open on the bed. Her
She is dyeing her hair before the mirror. The dyed water
runs down her face when she raises her head to recognize
herself. She has locked the door. Now she must answer or
not answer to the knock. She must ask who or be silent.
Out in the night, the New Life risks her entrance, opening
the way for her, lending her its staircase.
* * *
In the bus depot, she waits for the voice of the loudspeaker.
Her child is asleep on her lap. The timetable is folded in her
Now she is rising into the smoke and the smell of the ter-
minal, standing in line with the strangers she does not want
to sit beside. She takes the third seat on the right and watches
the others push past, bumping their suitcases and mumbling
sorry. The bus driver climbs through the doorway and checks
down the aisle of passengers. Their faces gather momentum
for their separate journeys. Their bodies rock to a common
rhythm. Her child dreams of all her promises. She leans her
head against the window.
* * *
No goldfish or canary shall miss their presence. The cat
down the hall will resume its superior identity, licking its
paws in the sunshine. No clues will be left to the landlady
with her yellow broom and keys.
Lives are lived and let go of. They are tragic entertainment
for the performers. They are comedies to be enjoyed. They
are ill-performed love stories.
Was it the rain, or was it the sound of the rain
of yesterday—sound-echo through glass
of the open window—
or was it a plane, droning thinly by with a long,
slow drone—slow as waking into the soft,
almost engine-sound, of rain?
Many, many thanks to Joyce Odam, who writes today about empty suitcases as well as the “empty” part of our Seed of the Week, “An Empty Suitcase” for her poems today. Thanks for your fine poems, Joyce, and of course for the beautiful photos.
For more about Ballet of the Woodpeckers, go to www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/horn-ballet-of-the-woodpeckers-t06551/. For more about Thursday by John Moore, see below, as well as www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/482632/.
Our new Seed of the Week is Keepers of Secrets. Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Who are the secret keepers in your life?
Celebrate the poetry of the paintbrush!
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