Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Houses of Ghosts

Laugh, and the World—You Know
—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I used to have a wine-flavored house
where poets used to meet
and drink
and weep
all night
and dance their feet
to all their loves and losses

I used to be
the hostess there
I used to pour
and pour the wine
we used to spill
our poetry like wine
the house responded with its love
we filled its rooms
and walls and years

and now it wonders where we are
and speaks and speaks
to its new occupants
and is not
cannot ever be
again that loved



Love is a foreign word. A fact with a blue moment
left at its core. It leaves signs everywhere, like notes
of warning. Handwritten. Barely legible. Are they
instructions? She reads them without emotion.

Life is without sensation—a pale blur
of shadow sliding along a wall.
There are no textures left. She focuses on a word:
blue—murmurs it to the window.

She listens for the songbird,
but once again her imagination fails.
What will she tell the wind, she wonders aloud
to the vibrating stillness.

Still, the old ghost stalks her;
watches her with uneasy eyes,
plants thoughts
in her mind that disturb her.

They are tense together, filling the same space.
The window widens until it incorporates
the whole room. How strange, she marvels,
touching the surrendering glass. The ghost sighs.



hold on to the ghost of absence
it is all you have 

you are not meant for
the happy ending

thieves will visit you for
your heart

give it to them

it is all they need
and it was never yours

call out a name
become that name

it will not know you
though you use its signature

 The Listening Wall


in the mirror is a door
through the door a room
on the far wall of the room
is a mirror . . .

in the mirror is a room
through the room a door
reflecting the door is
a mirror . . .

(first pub. in Orbis [England], 1973)



She cannot find her way through the shifting rooms,
the lock of windows, the felt presence of another—
the way her shoulders touch darkness, and darkness

yields. Year after year she can hear a nightingale
in the center,
and year after year she seems to get closer to

the brilliant singing:  She imagines a golden cage,
its small door open to the solving light, and no bird
there, though she can still hear the singing.

(first pub. in
Seattle Review, 2001)



why can’t I get to you faster
how can I get out of
this slow motion
and reach you

you are living a whole
desperation before my eyes
and it takes me all that time
to begin one futile gesture

I want to be
what is needed of me
but I am so heavily caught
in slow motion  

 The Depth of White


You said, cut my heart out,
gave me the scissors,
red candy-heart on white plate
(to catch the blood on) you said.

You said,
wash the plate. Make it pure,
love is un-conditioned now,
the scissors, innocent.

the white plate—pure and conditioned
now—held under water with scissors
and red candy heart—dwelling on the
subtleties—satisfaction with the truth.

 Leaning Into the Hour


We divide our time by wars. Let’s hear it for the dead.
Let’s hear it for the living. Wars keep scores, keep scores.
Let’s hear it for the wars—the death that keeps on giving.

Let’s hear it for the tears. Oh, can the dead be weeping ?
Still ? What if each death deplores the tears that bear the
living, what of the flags ? the crosses ? the gun salutes

and taps ? War adores its widows. Let’s hear it for the
graves, so full of deaths and flowers. Let’s hear it for the
shovels. Let’s hear it for the diggers. Time is not given

whole. It has an edge, an edge. It has a middle. Fold it.
Snap it closed—an uphill // downhill struggle: half of it
is used, the other half is trouble—trouble with the scores.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

Some nights I can still feel the soft pounce
on my bed . . . as when the old cat
would wait for me to finally turn in.

(first pub. in
Of Cats, Mini-chap, 2002)


Joyce Odam sends us ghostly poems today, going with our Haunted Houses Seed of the Week for last week. And ghostly they are, too! Thank you, Joyce.

Joyce’s last poem today, with its unusual punctuation, is appropriate to Veterans’ Day, which is next Monday.
What of the flags ? the crosses ?  she says . . . And her first poem is about our community of poets of long ago, when Joyce often hosted all those wild poets of our region and beyond. And yes, I do believe the occasional wine was spilled, as was lots of poetry and lots of love.

Our new Seed of the Week is "In the Drawers of Old Desks". 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.

Today from 5-7pm, Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around meets at the El Dorado Hills Library on Silva Valley Pkwy. in El Dorado Hills. Suggested topic is “fashion”, but other subjects welcome. 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.

—Medusa, as we spill our poetry like wine ~


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.