—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA
old car trapped in weeds
twisting sideways like a wreck
so dusty and hot to sit in
pretending to drive it
no tires on its wheels
its seats like cracked hide of elephants
fun to hold the steering wheel
make driving sounds and
look in the sun-stained rear-view mirror
the vacant lot recedes to a plain in Africa
shapes of gold animals watching through the weeds
through the gentle elephants who are
lifting their trunks above their heads
you’re not afraid
alone on this yellow plain as far as you can see
you at the lurching wheel
driving toward some kill
The road ends here
In unkempt fields
Where weeds grow tall.
They twist and wind
About my legs
Until I fall.
Trapped, like the road,
In tangled grass,
I see the sky.
It darkens, night
Is shutting down,
And birds can fly.
(first pub. in: Oakland Tribune, 1960)
AGAINST THE NIGHT
Walking in fields through dusty evening toward the
summoning light which is swiftly failing, we slowly
dissolve into our shadows and the western sky is an
easy sadness for our quiet eyes.
The dream has fallen again among the hollows of
swift darkness. The other end of things is the goal.
The field’s diminishing edges press in. The house
with no lights on yet is becoming a huge dark shape
Only the tips of golden weeds still celebrate their
place in things and stubbornly cling to our clothing
long after we have returned to the beginning-point
of our brief and aimless stroll against the night.
(first pub. on Medusa’s Kitchen, a while back)
AFTER THE TROPHY FIRES
After Peasant Burning Weeds by Vincent Van Gogh
are letting up
the sky is red
the earth is black
matches or lightning
what can be proffered now
the trash man comes on time I guess
to all the little towns in all the forests
the forests will take longer
the towns will take longer
the eyes burn
the lungs burn
the hearts burn
the anguish burns
small offerings to trash cans now
life starts and finishes
living must prevail
the normal stuff
ON CATCHING AN IMAGE OF WIND
AND RAIN IN UNMOWED GRASS
The rain is in love with the grasses.
It touches them with wet, green kisses
and they glisten in its windy murmurs.
Love, come again to all such places
where I have lain, the inner weeds
insinuating, the small, tame flowers,
around me dying. Love, come as rain,
when my mouth can know such bruising,
soft is the pain.
(first pub. in Retrospect, 1969)
“O WORLD, THAT’S YOU”
and I am you, and thus
Oh, not the planet, but the abstract you,
the one of all, that small.
I am not claimed
or thus inclined.
I drift in effigy,
my own revision.
Of soul: O what am I
in this transition of mind,
the beingness of being—
I am the twig from which the leaf is torn
and the leaf in its mid-fall . . .
I am the reflex shudder of the tree,
I am the shudder in my throat,
the next breath to come
and the one after that.
DEATH OF A LANDSCAPE
After Draft of a Landscape by Paul Celan
Razed. Stricken. Dug up and abandoned.
Graves, Memory’s neglect.
Small histories of small lifetimes.
Here somewhere. Look for it,
whatever you have lost.
Where is this place?
It is cold. It has no welcome.
It is a place without expectation.
Stones and ruts, and here
and there a weed.
That’s what you
came to learn:
the tenacity of weeds;
the patience of stones;
the caution of ruts.
The horizon cannot be reached.
Nor the end of day.
The sky is a separate thing.
You wish for a bird, and a bird flies by.
You are creating this. Your own landscape.
THE POET, COMING HOME
How strange to come from places so far
on these horses of sleep
who bend their necks down
now that they are home.
And we must live here
on their farms
and be their owners.
What of our distances, we wonder,
and there are none.
We are the newly-arrived,
though our names are on the
gates that need painting
and sag from disrepair.
In the houses that
we do not want to enter
are endless things to do.
Weeds grow from the rugs
and there is dust on all the dishes.
But we are loyal to duty.
Like joyful trust
we fly into the mouths of cage birds
who are hungry from singing
and we feed them our words
which is all we are.
(first pub. in Kudzu, 1980)
LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW
Thank you, weatherman, for the rain.
Dark bird shadows hunched
on swaying wire. The wind.
New green leafage
welcomed by the tree.
through the branches.
The wind takes the
blossoms for the wind.
The pavement glistens—
bright new weeds, emerging.
Weeds? Is there any such thing? Surely not those healthy green, shimmering plants with the pretty flowers that spring up after the rain? If there are such things, Joyce Odam has captured them for our recent Seed of the Week: Weeds, and we are very grateful!
Our new Seed of the Week is Couples. Send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.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.
For up-coming poetry events in our area, scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
For Paul Celan’s "Draft of a Landscape", go to www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/browse?contentId=32091/.
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.