Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Do Not Burden Me With Beauty

—Poems and Photos by Joyce Odam, Sacramento, CA


Here I am in my beautiful red stockings, which are painted
on my legs. The red lamplight is burning on the wall behind
me. I am half-dressed, or half undressed. I can’t decide which.
I am in a mood. Do not burden me with beauty—I have no
use for it. I am in the middle of a melancholy. I think I may

have been young once—floating upon a swirl of premonition,
as I do now. Do not look at me. My eyes are closed. My hand
is clenched in my hair as I swoon into scarves of red chiffon.
Do not admire me. Do not pity me. I am here for myself. Do
you not see the flush of grief on my face, the desperation?

(first pub. in Thorny Locust,  2004)



She is here to tease :
the fan, the hanging silks,

the pearls around her throat,
that languid look,

her rumpled white dress

the cushion
that she leans against.

How young is she.
A century perhaps.

A century
takes its time—

remembers as it will.
Though she

is many centuries gone,
she teases still.



Here we are, still in costume, wandering
like two rain clouds through dark trees.

The old white moon is already
high in the sky. I think it follows us.

Should we stay in character?
It makes it easy to know who we are,

all of satin and silk pretension,
easy to find. Don’t leave me or

let go my hand.
Even though the moon is bright,

the trees are dark, The sky
is rumbling and I think we may be lost.

I don’t remember how long it’s been
since the laughter and the applause—

how long since the giddy satisfaction
of our talent—only our costumed

selves now—wandered no farther than
these trees that rustle with such sadness?

 The Blues


Well, all is neat now in the tidied room, fringe of a shawl
hangs down in silky perfectness, she is sitting upon it so
carefully so as not to muss it; she is reading a magazine
with her eyes. She is dressed in dark—she has not smiled
today. She does not know what to do with herself. An old-
fashioned radio on a small end table does not seem to be
playing. Everything is orderly. She is pretending to be
comfortable. It is 1937. Small edges are squeezing in. She
draws her feet up. Her hand is resting on the edge of a page.
Her eyes are not noticing the subtle changing of her time-
lessness. She is in profile to all that is altering the room.
Her mood is untouched by this. She has created it.



She still wears her stockings rolled with dime store
garters above her knees

and tells us of the cherished disasters and triumphs
of her ‘olden days’ with a throaty wheeze,

and oh, she laughs uproariously, and oh, she guffaws
loudly, at the bawdy memories she frees,

and how the whole drunken honest beauty of her
privacy in public reverie does please.



I watch the girl in the silky brown dress and bulky shoes
and heavy purse hanging from her shoulder—standing in
line with her off-staring mother—while her siblings go
chasing in rowdy circles around the display counter.

Her dreaminess is caught in my casual stare as she flicks
the trace of a smile and switches her weight to her other
hip, moving in line with the slow-moving others—as the
line shortens before, and lengthens behind.

The hum of the room fades into the distance of her dis-
traction. She has a ring on her finger that she fiddles with,
and a watch that holds no time but this time of no concern
to her. She catches the path of my glance again.

But I do not exist for her—and I feel that I intrude—
somehow—upon her engrossment—the automatic way
she moves when the line moves—as if nothing of the room’s
murmuring vexation involves her.

 Love Song


Iridescent girl
in path of blue light
in cool attitude
her white stockings
flash a metallic hue.
I think
she is a dancer
or a lady of recent darkness;
I think she is a spy
for sorrows;
I think she knows
a secret
and will tell
only her day-dreamed lover
who looks through his
far, blue eye at her
and sends his shafts
of silent touch
to her patterned hands,
her dress,
her white-blue stockings.

(first pub. in The Poet’s Guild, 1997)


After The Great Dancer by Jean (Hans) Arp, 1926

The whale dances with the amoeba, which dances with
the jellyfish, which dances with the man in the tuxedo
and the woman in the white stockings.

they demonstrate the life they share with the music
that is different to each.

They are so tolerant of each other—with the motion
to guide them—and no end to reach.
They are perfectly secure in each other’s embrace.

The whale comes up for air and to see the sky.
The amoeba follows the curiosity, and the jellyfish
changes shape with every motion of the others.

The tuxedoed-man and the white-stockinged woman
continue to be oblivious to all but the passion of
the dance as they move to the virtual shape of the music.


After Portrait of Xie Kitchin by
Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), 1874

The chaise lounge will someday fit her as a woman, but for
now, she is a child, sensuous and dreamy, held in a spell :
her own mystery—who she is—lying back for the camera’s
interpretation, its loving attention. She wears a white dress and
long white stockings and a white ribbon in her hair. She holds
an open book, slack in her hands, and tells with her eyes what
innocence is—what life and death are. She is but a child in a
fashioned pose of waiting, with a secret story in her eyes. A
small white skull waits patiently by, hidden in what seems
to be a white spill on the portrait, smiling and whispering:
Child, someday you will become a part of me, even as I will
become a part of you.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Joyce Odam

“She’s a poet,” my daughter
whispers, hushing them,
“she writes poems.”
And in the other room children‘s chatter
unwinds to an ear-teasing hum.

“What’s a poet?”
one of them stage-whispers.
Another snickers.  A door
as the stampede moves outside.
The silken threads of my poem

(first pub. in
The Archer, 1967)


Many thanks to Joyce Odam for today’s fine poems and pix as she dances around the idea of our Seed of the Week: Silk Stockings. Our new Seed of the Week is Lady Luck. 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 of Lewis Carroll’s portraits, photos and art, see www.pinterest.com/pin/390687336396646649/?lp=true/.

The Poetry Box’s
The Poeming Pigeon is about to release Issue #7 (“In the News”); pre-orders will be taken until Aug. 15 at thepoetrybox.com/bookstore/the-poeming-pigeon-in-the-news?mc_cid=8d19fb048c&mc_eid=b02a0f9fa2/. Starting Aug. 15, submissions for their Fall issue will be accepted at thepoetrybox.com/the-poeming-pigeon?mc_cid=8d19fb048c&mc_eid=b02a0f9fa2/. The Poetry Box has grown by leaps and bounds in its short life; check out all their publications and publication opportunities at thepoetrybox.com/.


 The Great Dancer by Jean (Hans) Arp
For more about Jean Arp, see 
And celebrate poetry!

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