Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Mother's Edge

—Poetry by Joyce Odam and Robin Gale Odam,
Sacramento, CA
—Photos by Joyce Odam

—Joyce Odam

after the white dream, the sun
not yet filtering through the tree
outside the window, an unseen bird

is brightly singing somewhere in
the morning, repeated now for
emphasis on the bluish gray sky—

and as I record this, the bird stops
singing as though arrested by
my thought and a hum in the air

that may be the wind, or the far
day-sounds beginning, sounding
like ocean against shore—

I can smell the salt, I can hear
the sea gulls, lonely as ever, circling
and crying only above the traffic now

and the clock says 6:00
although I know it is really 5:00
and the unseen bird is singing again—

soon the sun will fill the dark leaves
of the tree with gold fluttering light
and I will close this poem
(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 12/11/12)
Now Or Never

. . . in the leaves, the by-
gone of a different time barely
away from me now . . .

. . . of a different time, the
quiet stirring blown over, un-
remembered, in the past . . .

. . . the little wind and the flutter
of leaves, almost ready to fall, con-
signed to oblivion . . .

. . . or maybe just buried
in a line on a page of the journal,
and nearly forgotten . .

—Robin Gale Odam

—Joyce Odam

There she is again, my mother, showing up
in somebody else’s photos or poems—
somebody else’s life that sounds like mine.

How does she do that and remain my own.
This time she has on her white dress
and summer hat. That’s me by her side—

held close to her. She dotes on me.

And I am shy. Awkward. Not pretty like her.
Sometimes she pretends not to know me—
glancing away at a particular moment.

But I know that’s just one of
her aenigmas that she keeps from me—
her eyes always give one flick of recognition.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 2/25/20) 
Witchery Switchery

—Robin Gale Odam

The tilt of humor, the mask of
curiosity, the worry of judgment—

the dubiously disapproving suspicion,
disdainfully oblique and skeptically askew—

show it all at once.

Now Don't You Slam That Door

—Joyce Odam

Mother, I will put you
in a poem
with long corridors
and years
and you will have
anything you want and need
and I will be there with you
forever, if you want me there
and we will be halfway
between young
and never old
and we will laugh
at funny things discovered
and you will have good eyes
and many books to read
and crossword puzzles
and I will never
argue with you
or try to have my way
and, Mother,
I will let you have
my calendar to mark upon,
the way you do
first thing each morning,
marking off the day arrived
and what it holds for you.

(prev. pub. in Passager, Winter 1991)

—Joyce Odam

First she would pierce the eyes
with an ice pick
to pour
the strange and colorless milk
into a jelly glass for me to drink.

Then she would crack the shell
into jagged pieces
with her small kitchen hammer
to get to the white meat
that shone like crystal—

this we would dig at
with a knife,
or scrape loose
with our teeth—
this exotic, occasional treat.

The last of the pieces
would always harden
and lose their sheen—and I
never wondered if she ever wanted
to taste the milk she gave me.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 5/9/10; 8/26/14)
We Will Or We Won't
—Joyce Odam

taking my own picture
in window-reflections
standing behind my camera

in transparent fantasy
a mockery of substance

now in flowers
now in lamps
now in a turning of curious faces

I am held
in the time of this
in her country

where she has returned
and I have come
to be with her

my fame is held
in moments where I
paused for brief souvenirs of myself

marveling at my album of selves
each one with the same serious look
what do I seek

an arrangement of years
allows me
to remember each small finding :

Yes, this one . . .
this one is me . . .
another self-portrait.

(prev. pub. in Poets’ Guild, 1996, and
Medusa’s Kitchen, 8/4/15; 5/10/22)


—Joyce Odam

He is pulling away now
from the mother force.

In the diminishing center
she stares out at him.

Their minds pass
twice in time.

There is a frail echo
of sadness in the air.

Words become weary between them,
even as

their endless continuation of eyes
from the long conversation.

        *        *        *

In the monogrammed

her sheer gray roses
flounder on the stem;

the crocheted pieces under them
die thread by thread.

Outside, in the flowered yard,
old perfumes rise.

Far back
where she can’t fear them

bee hives in the tenant distance
wait for the bees.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 6/24/14)


—Joyce Odam

Sister, where were you when our mother died?
I hope you were there with her,

holding her hand
and listening to her breathe.  

I hope she slipped away without knowing
she would not waken this time.

Sister, did you materialize for her—let her
see you—know you as my old creation,

talk about my need of you,
my sending you to her, bearing this poem?
About Virtue
—Robin Gale Odam
(After "Truth Serum" by Naomi Shihab Nye)

for the measure of ordinary suffering,
for the commonplace, for the humble—

thunderheads towering, the curse
furling itself against the dark morning

echo calling back for the wind,
thin clouds    wisping    wisping

from the night flower, perfume
of a petal lifted in the breeze

over the red fire, yerba buena steeping
for comfort and for the resting of sorrows

ancestors loved us in their vision,
eyes lowered—knowing our names
Because I Said So      

—Joyce Odam

I take the edge along with me
wherever I go . . .
Like a ruler—
like a lifeline in a world made of snow.

I take it for caution and what I almost know
of boundary.

I take it to remind me of where I left off
and where I began.

I take it as something not to step over,
or off of.  

I need this edge to prevent me from the fall
that flaunts its vertigo.

I know my dimension,
Mother named it so—

She said, “Take this edge through life
as a peripheral.”

She took it from her tiny balcony of warning
and stood there—edgeless—waving.

And I still have it with me  :
Mother’s edge—still holding, guarding.

(prev. pub. in Medusa’s Kitchen, 5/9/11; 5/10/22)


Today’s LittleNip:

—Robin Gale Odam

Overall I think it was a graceful
journey, except for the convoluted
twist in the swaddle of cocoon

and emerging as a mother of adult
children.    Here they are     and only
slightly askew.


Mother Joyce and daughter Robin have sent us poems about the difficult job of mothering (our Seed of the Week)—and being the one who is mothered—and our thanks to them for their stellar poetry, as always!

Our new Seed of the Week is “Indulgence”. 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. And see every Form Fiddlers’ Friday for poetry form challenges, including those of the Ekphrastic type.

Be sure to check each Tuesday for the latest Seed of the Week.


Indulgent? Who—me??
 —Public Domain Photo Courtesy
of Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

A reminder that Bob Stanley
will interview Tom Meschery
at Twin Lotus Thai in Sacramento
this afternoon, 2pm.
For info about this and other
future poetry happenings in
Northern California and otherwheres,
click on
in the links at the top of this page—
and keep an eye on this link and on
the daily Kitchen for happenings
that might pop up
—or get changed!—
 during the week.

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