Tuesday, June 12, 2018

It Was The Bees

—Poems and Original Artwork by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


I know how she does her garden every day.
Mornings at her window, looking out upon
the singing of the birds, I know how her
two shrubs cast their shadows by the door,
and how the tree responds to breezes;
I know the habit of the neighbor’s cat
who walks across the lawn, and the watchful
way she measures that against the habits of birds.
I know how the iris look in sunlight and the
roses look in shade, and the way each purple iris
has a slightly different shade though growing
side by side. I know how she goes out to check
the flowers and the changing tones of day,
and how the seasons of the garden drift away.



Mother, I made you dance with me in the rain.
“Come out and dance with me,” I said,

and you stared at me as if I was crazy,
or just young, which I was,

but the day was warm, and the warm rain fell,
and I wanted to dance in it, but not alone.

“Let’s put on our bathing suits,” I said,
“and dance in the rain.”

“Oh, come on, Mama,” I begged.
And we went dancing in the rain.


(Balboa, 1941)

Shallow waders,
wet roar of invisible dark waves,
brushing ourselves with shining hands—
our phosorprescence.

 Summer Twilight


what does it mean to preen upon silken
sheets at night under a city moon
at an open window
with your thoughts turning into sacrament...

what does it mean to hold yourself sacred
in the midst of such perilous yearning,
what does the soul want when it leaves your

body—crying its loss when you dare touch
the tangible flesh of moonlight—streaming
around you—into you—like love—or its refusal...

how does your sorrow learn not to be—not even
an increment away from the rain-filled moment
when you are sitting at some lonely microphone

on a poetry chair—filled with such wisdom 
you cannot hold it all—so you let it go—
into the drowning world, before it wakens
under the sleeping moonlight, without you...



that drew
the careful curiosity of the boy

the old hive empty now
in the far back corner

of the lot
he still can hear

the golden buzzing
and note the way

the lazy shadows moved
against the dreaming day

his mother stands there too
with him,

as if the bees
were still there

and busy at their work

as in some olden time
before this trembling moment

and much was lost forever

(After J. Alden Weir,
Watching the Bees, 1896)

 Seasons of the Summer

One summer more

and the plum tree
weights its heavy branches down.
the plums too tight together,

and too high. Each year
another branch breaks
and the plums fall to the ground.

Much is remembered and expected
of the taste of plums :
one sweet bite,

before the sour taste within.
These are not plums for the finicky;
these plums are meant for jam,

or wine
and have no further use
except for the birds. 

 The Lazy Length of Summer


The lazy length of summer—some far year
as if not truly measured at the time—
finding love’s trite prediction coming true.
What did its warning matter, we were young.

We spent our foolish summer being young.
What kind of childhood took that foolish year,
distorting it at last to dwindled time—
no later sadness quite as sharp or true.

But these impressions linger. Most are true,
the way nostalgia loves the old and young
who fondly resurrect some treasured year—
unwrapping it from some romantic time.

We loved ourselves. Oh, how we hurried time:
impressioned love, that young, stays almost true:
first loss—such tragic passion to the young.
Best put away that tender, fading year

—back to its tissue—time is less than true.
Uncovered years are never for the young.



Light is thin—
leaves are brown—
some old town
that I’m in;
holding me;
can’t begin.
Write this down:
leaves are brown—
light is thin.

(first pub. in Sorrows [Mini-Chap], 2002)

 Remembering What Was

After Calm Morning, 1904, Frank Weston Benson, 1862-1951

       Time is but the/stream I go a-fishing in./Robust art.
                —Henry David Thoreau (1817-1852)

Shall we remember what was—or what we almost
recall, out of nostalgia,

or the old comfort of boredom.
We had no edge.

We had not lived beyond the now—
the cinema of our minds,

made of movie-lore and imagination.
We should have noticed

more detail
Everything was smaller then.

We were never dramatic.
Everything was enough.

Even the yearning.
Practice proved nothing.

There was always enough day
to go around:

the calm horizon, the rippleless blue water
—the small, floating boats we trusted,

the yellow, gathering sky—
the easy silences that stayed unbroken all this time.

(first pub. in Ekphrasis, 2008)

 Some Olden Time


Tag-end of summer, with its wilt and drag.
Then rain. 
With its relief to see
the sky fill with clouds,
a few inland gulls,
sense the renewal of energy.
Then back to summer, with its wilt and drag.

(first pub. in Poets' Forum Magazine)


Today’s LittleNip:


Just as joy
is the result of real effort,
a difficulty overcome,
a height reached—

something as simple
as forgiving lethargy
its hold on you—

One effort at a time:
rise…     walk…     do…

—Joyce Odam


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and original artwork as she contemplates our Seed of the Week: Summer. Our new Seed of the Week is Little Cabin in the Woods. 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.

For more about Weir Farm, the Connecticut home and studio of impressionist J. Alden Weir (where he watched the bees), go to www.nps.gov/wefa/index.htm or www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2016/09/29/through-artist-eyes-weir-farm-national-historic-site/BIqVkEJoSkEzxOvhd6bsQI/story.html/.

For those of you who are interested in forms, here is some info about Joyce’s poem, “Revisitations”: It is a Word-Repetition (Sestina-like) form based on James Tate’s three-stanza, word-repetition form (
The Book of Lies by James Tate), patterned 1234, 4321, 2341. This poem’s form, devised by Joyce Odam, is as follows:  1, 2, 3, 4  |  4, 1, 2, 3  |  3, 4, 1, 2  |  2, 3, 4, 1  |  2,  3,  1, 4.

Got that?


 Calm Morning by Frank Weston Benson
Celebrate the poetry of the morning!

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