—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
FROM THE CARNIVAL OF DAYS
The clown arrives with his black mask
and signature; he will amuse
with his pointed humor,
wait for the laughter—
who knows him?
who asked him here?
propped in chairs—
he rolls on the floor
to make the spotlight follow him,
he offers the flourish of his autograph
to the first one who finds him funny.
The audience cannot laugh or applaud.
(first pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2010)
CHANGING THE RELATIONSHIP
One day she up and changed, became someone to fear,
perhaps, to puzzle over at best, for her new and ornery
ways, the soft and raggedy way she dressed—all in torn
things—pulled from back hangers.
And it was where she went in bad weather and came
back at odd hours—hours when the clock showed a
particular row of repeated numbers on the small clock by
It was the way she murmured of blue forms by the
window, that seemed to know her, and love her, and how
she went to them in her trance of being and celebrated
with them her sorted miseries, and how her new name
glistened on their lips—and how she loved the sound of
this, and became their name for her, and it was her own—
the one she chose to be, before you came.
THE EVENT OF SORROW
This was the event of sorrow.
We knew it from before.
It had the same eyes
and the same song;
it had the same tempo.
We knew we were not wrong
to celebrate it.
It had the same wings,
drug heavy against the ground,
back to be punished for its pain.
How we lamented—
remembered and lamented,
telling our stories over and over
to one another—lighting
our incense and our candles,
obeying the famous rituals
sorrow always demanded.
Pathetic in our circle,
we did our dance together,
forming the ring of suffering,
sorrow in the center,
a stricken figure,
its reverent sadness,
its great wings round and ragged
and so heavy at the shoulders.
And all we could do
was weep and admire,
weep and admire,
the way sorrow never forgot us,
the way it came such a long way
on its anniversary to be with us.
IF I GO AWAY
if I go away
will you be lonely
if I go away
will you celebrate
how do I fathom you
I who am less loved and old
shall I roll away
like an old tire from a dying car
who would travel you like a taken road
all that disrepair
if I am a good cook
may I stay
must I pin my anger to the wall
like an old tapestry heavy with dust
when you hate me
I am there smiling for you
when you love me
I am suddenly bereft of myself
all alone at an open window
watching the swift sunset
ATTENDING THE CELEBRATION
THE FINAL DAY OF THE ART EXHIBIT
A huge warehouse of a building
with large shadows about.
The night cold and early.
The others assembling. We chose
a large, cold, echoing center
in which to talk.
I felt you draw back from
the pain and discomfort of words.
Blessed my difficulty.
Vague now together,
away from old easiness.
Lifetimes eroding into frail acceptances.
Denials of what we have to accept.
I had to tell you . . .
you had to hear . . .
the air churned with believing,
pulled down around us with its listening.
We leaned away from ourselves.
Too harsh, love and living . . .
too harsh, love and dying . . .
the old incompletions
like thin, tearing shawls.
Poor comfort. All we had.
We spoke in soft murmurs awhile,
our words interweaving.
The tall, gray shadows of the building
trembled. We grew cold
and meandered toward the others
who were standing under evasive room-light
as they laughed and shivered,
as they embraced in greeting
and mingled among
the incompletions here,
though this was an ending
to be celebrated.
(first pub. in Nite-Writers International Literary
Arts Journal, 1997)
WHEN I THINK OF PARIS
When I think of Paris, Paris thinks of me. I sit in one of
its small cafés and watch my multiple reflections pass.
My glass images collide—and I bleed; my reflections cry—
but my dry face stares. Poets at nearby tables write poems
about me. Artists draw me. Congenial laughter drowns
I do not know myself here though Paris calls me
Daughter. Paris says, Laugh. Drink. Celebrate. But I am
torn through time like a leaf blown from a city tree. Wrong
season, I cry. Wrong century. Time has refused me. Paris
fades and leaves me here at this small table, scribbling swift
words on a shrinking piece of paper.
“What a mighty voice it requires in the poet, to
keep his lines strange, and rolling like waves, and
brave like the sun.” —John Crowe Ransom
These words that celebrate from me,
these words that grieve,
these words that sing or weep . . .
These words that come from their
own places—of their own volition,
that I take—and call them mine . . .
How they cluster—how they form—
too fast, or too resistant—depending on
their own need or inspiration . . .
Which of us needs the other more—
my reach, or their release? Oh, Words,
words—we are the path to one another.
I will write while you speak.
(first pub. in Poets’ Forum, 1998)
THE BREATH OF TIME
The view is good from here.
Snow birds cry love to me.
The mountain peaks shine
and the sunlight pours down
I hear the thin ring of bells
from valley churches.
I can even fly—soar
through all my dreams—
all explained. My body is light
and my mind
has never been so deep.
Love shines from within me
and touches everyone.
It is brief but good.
I feel a swarm of color
and am surrounded by sunlight.
I transform into all of it.
I have reached the magic number
This year I celebrate.
Words on stone—abbreviations of life,
succinct, or falling short—
(or delegate) to history’s recall.
Cemetery walkers wander here—and here—
reading these measures of esteem :
the names, the dates, the outworn plaudits,
and marvel at how faint, how worn
they have become, communicative now
to scanning eyes—to whispering voice—
perhaps with bits of reverence
for sentiment most prettily engraved.
Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her poetic and photographic celebrations today, celebrating our Seed of the Week: Celebration! Our new Seed of the Week is Asleep at the Wheel. 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.
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