2nd Poem for Bonnie Mcclellan’s International Poetry Month

black-curtains2

My poem, “Window Open, Closed” is the February 28th offering on Bonnie Mcclellan’s International Poetry Month celebration:

https://bonniemcclellan.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/window-open-closed-by-robert-okaji/

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DRAFT: Ode to A

file2501259590199

I’m attending a Tupelo Press Writing Conference this weekend, and thought it would be fun to share the piece I’ve written in response to an assignment. Participants will be exploring Pablo Neruda’s work, and have been charged with producing an ode in the style of Neruda.

Ode to A

I praise your curves
and angles, your
history,
the lift and heft,
those borrowed traces
sprouting from
an ox head
in fetid Egypt,
the dung trails
alive with beetles
rolling their wares
across rutted paths,
under the hooves
of the blind
mouthless cow in
Sinai, morphing
to the early
Phoenician aleph,
its horns
lowered sideways
in a pasture
far from the docks,
as if asking
what next,
where to,
and not in anger
or fear
or sheer bullness,
but with purpose,
like a harrowed field
or cool drink
at the end
of a hot afternoon.

And centuries
later, the horns
lifted again,
but only halfway,
as if in greeting
the man with the
goods-laden cart,
saying welcome,
traveler,
welcome to my
humble home,
please share
my bread
and soft cheese,
these grapes,
this wine, too.

But how alone
my tongue feels
in singing your name,
never touching lip
or roof of mouth,
worshipping
the apex of your rich
furrow, forever
plowing forward,
yet failing,
fallow at every turn.

And I have
not yet mentioned
your lower
case,
kneeling and
well rounded,
a bud, a tender
shoot bridging
two stones
in a dry
plot: oh, to be
that tongue
and palate,
those lips
surrounding you,
to be your
consonant
in a field of vowels.

Hungarian cattle, Lajosmizse, Hungary

Mole (Pipian)

00936

Mole (Pipian)

Always the search beneath texture,
layers captured in subsidence,
the drift to interpretation: a mixture, meaning

sauce, and its journey from seed to mouth,
the careful blend of herb and fire,

dismembered chiles,
the crushed and scorched fruit
rendered to preserve for consumption
the most tender qualities

and their enhancement towards art.

This is of course not about the mammal with the subterranean lifestyle, but rather a version of the Mexican sauce, pronounced “mo-lay,” which includes, as a main ingredient, pumpkin seeds. It takes a while to put together, but is well worth the effort.

file000720697612

Tarantula

file000990621742

Tarantula

The patience of stone, whose surface belies calm.
Neither warm nor cold, but unfeeling.

It digresses and turns inward, a vessel reversed
in course, in body, in function, the

outward notion separate but inclusive,
darkness expanding, the moist

earth crumbling yet holding its form:
acceptance of fate become

another’s mouth,
the means to closure and affirmation

driven not by lust nor fear
but through involuntary will.

Neither warm nor cold, but unfeeling.
The patience of stone.

file5091271408303

Requiem

file0001789222317(1)

Requiem

That it begins.
And like a wave which appears
only to lose itself

in dispersal, rising whole again
yet incomplete in all but
form, it returns.

Music. The true magic.

Each day the sun passes over the river,
bringing warmth to it. Such

devotion inspires movement: a cello in the
darkness, the passage of sparrows. Sighs.

The currents are of our own
making. If we listen do we also

hear? These bodies. These silent voices.

DSC02722