Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Oh, My House...

—Poems and Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


House woman smiles
through her heart which is
worn on the outside of her dress.

The lines of her dark merge with
the yellow walls of her home,
all in a pleasant vertigo.

She is falling slow.  She leans
to catch her hand against the air.
Just in time.  She changes her mind

and begins to hum.
The hours glide by on a reel.
She is nowhere new.

She is just there
in the midst of her collections—
letting them be her reason to not go.

(first pub. in The Confluence [Broadside], 1997,
from One Dog Press)


I am the deaf woman in the House of the Bell, the
one who can no longer hear the old reverberating
tones, but must feel the bell’s un-tolling with every
nerve of my body and in the sensation of my bones. 
I am positioned here like a martyr to tell you when
the very airwaves grow back to their own relief. 
And even as my silence reaches you, you must find
your own.  I am the glare when you look up to see
what you suddenly notice is gone.  I am the stoic
one in blinding silhouette, standing in wrinkled white
against the flat white sky that goes birdless and lonely. 
No longer the one who screams for silence, I am the
spectre of silence now.  The dependency of the bell
will prove that over and over.  The bell is the mute
one here.  I give it its voice—the clangorous music
it utters when I honor my old contracts of doom at
certain hours of certain religious or fatal notifications.



in her front yard
the flock flew down
and listened to her singing

and when she stopped
they flew away
she cried

(first pub. in No Name Newsletter for Poets,

(for Anna—1929)

The scene is wide-dimensioned—a-tilt, the sidewalk
curving past the lawn back to the house, the house
shock-white—the top floor window open and the
record flying out of it to land at the feet of the child.

Just that—no voices come down through the stark-
white memory—the house sharp-white against a pale
blue heaven—the monotonous song of the record bro-
ken, and the shocked house drawing back its tantrum.

(first pub. in Bogg)


Oh my house,

with your
black staircase
and mute windows

your supplicant roof 
and walls that squeeze in—
your doors that open and close


I love the way you float in the sky
at night
when the stars surround you

and anchor to earth
by day
with the secrets you tell yourself.

I know how old you are
in your comfort and strain—
in all your containment, oh, my house.


I took to the sorrow like a love,
gave it my illegible promises,
went with it to its loneliness,
where I stayed.

It built a house for me,
made of old wounds,
made of windows filled with tears,
brimming with distortion.

How I loved those views: great refractive
sunrises and sunsets.  But it refused me
a door, locked me in with it, to hold
each other as though only we existed.

One day the sorrow abandoned me,
took the windows with it—left me
nothing.  There was a small note
on a dissolving table.  It said goodbye.

Each night the waves come up
and cover my house, corrode it with salt,
pull back what they want of it, leaving me
this dry beach of combed sand.

(first pub. in Thorny Locust, 2003)


Lazy, the dog-ghost, lay in the violet garden for years
while time moved on and left him dreaming whatever
dogs dream.  The lawn chairs wavered in the dream-light
as shadows played themselves along the blue ground
and tugged at their legs and lifted into the shallow
breathing of the dog.

The trees manipulated themselves into whispers, so
private you knew you were eavesdropping.  Blue came
to rest against some quiet rendering of darkness—some
stable image that could hold itself captured outside of
time—that nothing to return to.

And you wondered what you were doing there—
painted-in by some dead artist who put you in as an
afterthought, who you had reminded of someone—
perhaps the owner of the dog, though you were not
even sure of your presence there.

The old dog dreamed all this into place: the soft blue
whispering in the trees; the false solidity of light;
the creeping texture of shadow where you began to
softly vanish and the startled leaves caught in the air
in blue daubs of motion.


I will leave the house to its music
knowing how the house will love

to have music all to itself
how it will settle back and listen

—all day if I am gone that long
how the rooms will fill

with soft reverberations
and crescendo.

And if I could, I would stay
in the house with the music today.

(first pub. in Rattlesnake Review, 2007)


Our thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s poems and pix about the Secrets in the Attic (our last Seed of the Week)—and elsewhere in her house. Our new Seed of the Week is Homesick, taking a clue from this next poem by Joyce. Send your poems, photos and 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 more SOWs than at which you can shake a pencil.

Unfortunately, another poet, Pat Pashby, has passed away. Don Feliz writes: "The Pashby family asked me to inform poet-friends of Pat Pashby that she died in her sleep on 7/21/2016. Until about 3 days prior to death, she had a comfortable and active life quality for eleven months, thanks to hospice, No memorial services are planned."

Our condolences to you, Don, and to Pat’s family, for her passing.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

the way to hold against sunshine
no matter how real the
passing of hours

old beaks pecking in the rain
not that we have ever lost the sea
we keep the hunger clean

(first pub. in Contemporary Quarterly, 1980)



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