Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Honing the Sorrows Down

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

(Rondeau Redoublé)

There’s a late café in a sleepless town
where customers linger, as I used to do,
over coffee, to let time drown
the sorrows down to just a few—

well past midnight—feeling too
blue to go home—take my frown
to the sad mirror, blue to blue.
There’s a late café in a sleepless town

made of myth and memory—bone-
colored walls, seeming askew
with crooked calendars, days counted down,
where customers linger, as I used to do;

numbing the days to be gotten through—
maybe feeling their own pages torn—
a place like that.  Maybe you—
over coffee, to let time drown

whatever pulls you in—alone
in some quiet window-booth to pursue
your ramble of thoughts, as if to hone
the sorrows down to just a few—

as if you solved a thing or two,
then finally notice how light it’s grown,
the day beginning right on cue.
Everywhere such need is known,
there’s a late café.



Icy on my lips
this sip of
last night’s
in this insomnia of
the wee morning hours
with the window open
on this fourth day of January.

(adapted from The Coffee Pot, 1915 by Miro)

Old blue coffee pot, in this idle kitchen morning,
full of blue light from the filtered sky of curtains—
how you gleam, curving the slow light around you
in a soft blue dance of intricate small patterns
as the curtains move in the morning breeze
    as the curtains move . . .
        as the curtains move . . .                   
                    giving my eyes
such satisfaction in watching the quiet way you steal
the color, and the motion, and the rare blue light, and
turn yourself into this quiet work of morning devotion.



Coffee—spilled down the pages—all through the book—
a valance of imperfection pulling concentration away
from the words to the wrinkled brown stains that challenge
the attention of the reader : how ignore? assimilate?
use to advantage—add dimension—allow regret—despoiling
the pristine value of the unread book : how read it now—
without taking from,   or adding to,   the poems?



That long train wail this foggy day, the winter sun too high to
burn through where the train-wail carries like a slow insinuation
of somebody’s doom.  It comes from everywhere at once—
fog-stirred and haunting—such an easy word to use for what
that sound can do to one—like me—who listens and can use
its sadness for my own.
                               Perhaps we’ll intersect at some long track
where I must wait in my cold car, a cup of coffee by my side,
the radio on some bad news, or music that I like, or else decide
silence will do, and sit and watch the fog-dense cars roll past,
and just relax, and put perspective in a line with time.

(first pub. in Tule Review, 2001, Jane Blue, Editor)


How often do you need this to be true? You are such a
tragedy—sitting alone—in the rain—at the little sidewalk
table since you love moody atmosphere.

You sip your drink of rainwater and ask for the bill, and
the waiter comes indifferently toward you, but you keep
receding into the old pathetic story.

You love the ancient way you feel. You love the misery
of your own eyes in the distortion of the window. Inside,
patrons are looking out at you, but they don’t hold

together any more. You have been here too long, wearing
yourself thin with repetition—boring everybody—even the
long-dead artist you conjure for effect.

And now we leave you there in your private reverie, the
waiter never arriving, the rain falling into your glass—you,
shining so deeply, like a wet tree.

(first pub. in Parting Gifts, 2004)


Sarcastic-toned and smiling, biting with her
eyes, rathering elsewhere, she tends the table
of noisy patrons who will not tone down to
order, who ignore, though she waits at their
edges with her pad and pencil poised—with
her professional way of keeping track, while
they call out—over the table—over each other—
criss-crossing what they want, or mumbling 
amid the chatter and the laughter they have
brought; but she keeps her temper tight in her
smile and somehow wades through them all,
even telling a small joke to them, though they
are loud and private, and they look at her in
a friendly way as, ‘yes, thankyou’, they accept
more coffee, and stay and stay.

(first pub. in Nanny Fanny, 2001)


Black Mood Number Seven
of chin on hand
black stares
cold mouth . . .

no doubt . . .
is dangerous.

(first pub. in Brevities, 2005)



No morning kiss. Each wants the other different.
He is verbal; she is mute—Jack Spratt and wife,
at odds—both wanting lean; both wanting fat.
No compromise. Love is a word on a sampler—
her old needlework. Their habits hold them together
for the  sake of the  mirror, streaked with tears. No
morning kiss. They manage to cough apart. Lukewarm
cups of coffee warm each sullen mouth. In little scraps
around them: the morning paper, the unfinished
poetry, news and clues—both reading different
meanings into each, inter-merging into different rooms.


They are young
and I intrude.

What are you doing here,
their eyes demand.

I read them poetry
(my own).

They play chess
and thrum guitars

and listen
without mercy.

*    *    *

I give my words to them
without mercy.

Their eyes say no
(though one girl smiled).

I leave the stand.
They applaud, to be polite.

I go home soon
and drink black wine

and write
more poetry.

(first pub. in Quoin, 1971)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for her fine poems and photos today, riffing on our last Seed of the Week: Coffee and Donuts. This week, let’s head back to the seashore for our new Seed of the Week: By the Sea. Send your poems on this (or any other subject!) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.

And remember, we do accept previously published work here, which provides your poems a second chance to be seen. Send ‘em along—don’t be shy!

Note that OccuPoetry has extended their deadline to Jan. 16. OccuPoetry seeks poetry about economic justice/injustice, greed, protest, activism, and opportunity. See occupypoetry.org/submissions for guidelines and to submit. (They DO accept simultaneous submissions!)

And for talk about the rondeau redoublé, see www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/rondouble.htm/. For Dorothy Parker’s take on it, go to www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174102


Today’s LittleNip:


the seal, you get
that first burst of aroma
from the brand new jar of instant