Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The Endless Ball of Tangled String

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento

After “Under the Curve of Blue” by Stefano Resta

Taste the color red:
is it not slightly bitter,
and too rich,
and far too expensive
for poverty;
is it not the color of pain
in its longest endurance;
does it not spread and seep
into sensitivity,
like a stain . . . ?

taste rain,
which is like tiny icicles
on the tongue
and blurry to the eyes—
but none of this is more
than random comment—
to open the senses—like cuts.
Ice will cut the wrists.
Red will burn the mind.



I walk down the hotel hallway with its quiet rug
and dim light and knock on all the numbered doors
that will not answer. Peep holes follow me

and I come to the elevators that take me up
or down. The restaurant is full of the soft clatter
of preparation. No patrons yet. Soft music

plays in and out of hearing. One does not
have to listen. Outside, the same rain falls
that fell yesterday, on time and expected.

The lobby is empty, all the soft chairs and
perfectly polished tables with their lamps
and vases of flowers taking on the soft glow

of late afternoon. One could live here cozily
except for the ghosts. One could stroll hallway
after hallway, floor after floor, if time permitted.

I slide my key into the door-slot of my room
and look out over the rooftops at all the various pipes
and vents, a stray cardboard box bumping around

in the high breezes. I check the sky, the few
tall buildings, and wish there were somewhere else
to be, though here is perfectly comfortable.


The silhouette of our front yard tree
reveals patches of mistletoe
—the fence rail cuts a line across  

the lower branches, the sky
stretching into pale distance—
behind it, a flock of birds

flies out of the tree—everything
quickens for a moment, then
settles back as if it was all imagined  



In three                                                                
sepia panels :                                                        
huts at the base of                                                
mountains : tiny cattle                                          
that graze : figures who tend to their daily toil   
but look at the distance                                      
beyond the mountains                                    
letting their far gaze                                             


After Soir Bleu, 1914 by Edward Hopper

Clown sits in nonchalant solitude at the outdoor café in late
summer with lanterns overhead and a sulky woman approaching.
Perhaps they know each other.

Clown has an unlit cigarette in his mouth. He stares at a bottle
and a glass. His hands are folded. Perhaps he is late for a per-
formance and is loath to go.

Perhaps the others have not noticed him as the woman has.
Her eyes are dark and haughty. She pulls her shoulders back.
Clown still has not seen her. He seems morose.

His makeup is still fresh, his white costume shrill against the
blue distance behind him. Suddenly all the tables seem to lift
in a mottling of blue light. The lanterns shift

and the woman hesitates behind his chair. Clown does not turn
around but continues to frown down at the table. A nearby
woman turns to speak to her companion who stares

beyond her to the sultry woman and the clown who seems
absolutely removed from everyone and everything, though
everything is brimming softly around him.


Out in our weedy yard again the preachers come.
They mean us no harm. They spread their arms
as wide as they talk, encompassing all the lack,
and all the weeds of our late summer. So much
has gone to the drought; so much has died.

Who would know today how we quarreled and
gave up our hope? Who would know today how
we gave up our love?

You and the preachers stand in the sun. You are
so polite to them. And if they preach (or you do)
I cannot hear. I watch from a window. My eyes
are hot and my mind is numb. I cannot speak to
preachers or to you.

How can you just chat and smile at them, out there,
today, the way you do?



They drag in here and try to sell their chains.
They talk about the distance and the woe.
They try to buy our pity with their stains
of tears etched deep—as if we didn’t know

those old professionals—
those derelicts—
but we
are on to them—

we’ve heard those tales before, we know the tricks
the lost and useless use, the way they beg,
the way they hate us when we turn away
or press a bill or coin into their hands.


onion at three a.m.
rotting in the sack
tracking it down
that sour spoiling thing
sentencing everywhere
with its ruin and its soft
that my hand must touch
and examine the others
next to it

and I think of how wasteful
all life is
and death is wasteful too
with its unconcern for
choosing what
on the outside
looks so fresh and firm
or deceptive age
which is well preserved

and what to do with it all
for it lingers so
in the bloated air
in the kitchen
where the use for it
was lax or slow
for we never mean to purchase
what we will not use
the way cooks do
who like to invent
their recipes
from what they have on hand

like the hearty pot of
onion soup
we could have had
simmering artfully
in winter’s house
on a particularly cold
and hungry night



Last dance of sorrow, last dance of joy,
the night has broken

and the music has covered the walls
like silent draperies,

but the dancers still sway to the memory
they have found

still dancing
in the same spot

on the little dance floor
there is nothing left to hold them

but they hold each other
though the shadows are leaving

—floating off
into the echoes of the night—

like a coming attraction for tomorrow
—almost motionless—still swaying

to the music
swallowed by the lateness of the hour.


Lest I regress to some old meaning
less desired
old scriptures lost

burdens of cost
old blunders

poor rhyme not wanted here
slant or pure
all layers intertwined

but my heart and soul can overflow
at the sight of pink blossoms
in the moody month of March,

how the quickened feeling
of hope
can change the air—

but more like the close call
of some gentle thing
that got away from death,

or the final unwinding of
the endless ball of tangled string
that life depends upon…


Today’s LittleNip:


I hand you a dollar

and you bless me,

you bless me, you bless me.


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine photos and poems on this March 1, which, in our area at least, seems to be bringing March in like a lamb. It’s also the beginning of Women’s History Month; there are many websites on the subject, but here are a few to check out:


In keeping with the season, our new Seed of the Week is a broad one (so to speak): Women. Send your poetry, photos and artwork about this (or any other subject) to kathykieth@hotmail.com/. No deadline on SOWs.