Tuesday, April 23, 2019

House of Burdens

Dust of Sunsets
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


It was because this morning’s full white moon
shone in the window and I happened to look
and could not look away.

It was the endangered way a distracted bird
sat on the fence, so close, outside my intrusion,
and did not fly away when I stood there staring.

It was the studied, patient way a long-dead
picture stared back at me
when I was in a reverie and the clock stared, too.

It was the brooding way I could not answer my
own lost self  that could not move, for the world
fell back, and time stayed frozen to my thought.

It was the unrelenting way some time-worn
heaviness became a weight that this day made me
wear—like a heavy garment made of grief.

Impact of Silence


Above the fence line, beyond the borders,
a bird was singing,  “stone . . .  stone . . . ”

and the heavy day was drifting . . . drifting
. . . in my direction; and I was turning from

the window which was broken by the singing,
and the violence of love was almost worth

the danger.  How did I find myself here—
in this country—burdened by such gray

weather—burdened by your eyes which tore
the listening between us?  The bird followed

its song into the glass and we shattered—
one of us from pity—and the other from

the awful impact of the silence that resulted.


After Pink Dish and Green Leaves, 1928
(painting by Georgia O’Keeffe)

As pure as light before time slips backwards into
windows, nothing as far as dark with its limitations.

The mind can go where it wants: take this vase
on this windowsill, how it glows and supports

the burden of filtered radiance; how it knows
how to balance the edges of perspective—

nothing peripheral to claim the eye away from
light’s hypnosis when light has nowhere else to die.

(first pub. in Tule Review, 2002)

 Conditions of Light


To see something you want to share,
and nobody there—

no one to prove your finding,
no one to help carry the memory
grown sharp or dim
as the years dilute—

how can anyone carry this alone?



I choose this weight because
it is as tangible as my thought

of it—dense with significance,
mysterious enough to keep

for its solving—something
to consider when I am

drifting into some
dream that will not return me.



I carry the sense of melancholy on my back; I am a beast
of my own burden.

I have acquired patience, which is a gift of endurance;
I suffer in silent decibels.

No one hears me pass among them in my mortal costume
though I wear small bells on my ankles to sound my way.

My face is hidden deep in my collar and my sleeves fill
with ache of home, which is here and nowhere.

My garment grows heavy with the dust of sunsets.
The threads of my first embroidery wear away.

I go everywhere once—and never return—you see how
this is loneliness?

A Sense of Melancholy


How can I know of this directionless flow
except that I have been here forever, lifting
and falling, and filling every motion of it.

I am part of it, sensate and numb, rounded
and blent. Nothing can hold me. I am drift.
Catches of light touch and flicker off.

The dark is a deep merge of sorrow where I go
to weep. Sunlight amazes me with its far cry
that always knows where I am, burning into it.

How I flare and grieve with energy, sharded
into the same lost being, crushed into mirrors
by the very weight of myself—how old I am—

and pure of soul. I am reminded of love by my
very lack of love, which is the vast curtain of air
I flow through that is the only texture I know.

I fit and fit and keep changing as it changes.
Seeking is all. There is no finding. This is the
question I send forth after the receding answer.

 Never Blame Sadness


Life must always bear sadness along—that dead weight in
the heart, the emptiness in the arms, the eyes ever seeking
to fill the mind, the mind in recoil or probe; the sadness itself,
innocent and guilty both—unable to bear itself.

Life must never blame sadness; it is the probe at the begin-
ning, and the lament at the end; it is the one true thread of
your existence, the one that will never let you forget what
is most unbearable. You must love your sadness.

If it were not for sadness, you would lose your equilibrium,
forget to plod, forget to endure, forget the evolving limit of
your strength. You are the common bearer of your sadness—
that gift that lets you complete yourself.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Well, you go to the House of Burdens
and you say
I’ll take that one, and that one,
and that one, because they all
look good to you;
and then the Burden Salesman says,
Okay…they’re yours…

and you have to put them
all on your shoulders and try
to carry them all in one load
because you were greedy
and they are unreturnable.

(first pub. in
The Wormwood Review, 1975)


Gratitude to Joyce Odam this morning for her tapestry of burdens and the melancholy therefrom! They are, as she says, unreturnable…

Our new Seed of the Week is in honor of Earth Day coming this Saturday: Mother Earth. Send your poems, photos & 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.

But don't let your burdens get you down! Write 'em away—and stay away from that House of Burdens!

—Medusa, celebrating the poetry that is Mother Earth.

 "Planet Earth, viewed in its entirety (as much as one 
can see at once) from the GOES-13 satellite, has 
experienced many changes since we first began 
continuously monitoring our world from space. 
In all the Universe, it's the only home we have."
—NASA / Goddard Space Flight Center / GOES-13 / NOAA
To “Celebrate Earth Day with the Greatest Images 

of Our Planet From Space” go to 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.