In the Key of Your Hour


In the Key of Your Hour 

The words I sing are draped in silence,
wedged between notes yet flowing forward.

Stop-time presents the illusion of interrupted tempo and meter.

Perception informs our spirits.

The old guitar hangs on the wall and seldom speaks,
preferring instead to lightly hum when the wind blows just so.

The conceit of two right hands. A slamming door.

Music enters my room by subterfuge, but exits boldly.

If simultaneity is relative, how do we assign primacy
to an overtone? One voice, one whole.

We must respond to our bodies. In kind, with trust.

I ask you to listen without considering the requisite commitment.

The broken circle represents common time replete with imperfections,
linking the measurable to the internal well.

Gather what comes, no matter the source.

Mark time and repeat: harmonics, the quivering string. Breath.


“In the Key of Your Hour” appears in my chapbook-length work, The Circumference of Other, which is included in IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, published by Silver Birch Press in 2015.


39 thoughts on “In the Key of Your Hour

  1. Pingback: From Robert Okaji – In the Key of Your Hour at ‘O at the Edges’ – enjoy – richwrapper

  2. This one is smart, and mostly eludes me on an intellectual level.
    But I somehow get it physically:
    I know of hanging on the wall, of the vibrations that make us hum despite ourselves, of asking for harmony but not receiving what we hope for, or expect — often it’s something better, and sometimes it’s nothing at all.
    I don’t play an instrument, but I sing.
    My days of being serenaded by subterfuge are long over…
    But earworms have their way of inviting themselves in, and staying for long, bold spells.
    I find this piece provocative and mysterious, but can’t quite identify why, which makes it all the more powerful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not much of a musician and I can barely read the notes to a basic tune, but music fascinates me. So much of what we hear (or at least of what I hear) is based on expectation and perception, rather than what actually occurs. The same is true of poetry – as readers, we fill in the blanks, interpret what isn’t said. Alas, my musical “vocabulary” isn’t large enough to express or elaborate this with music. So I try with words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The potential for resonance is key, both in music and poetry. Also, it helps if the listener/reader has a willingness to perceive (and evaluate) the substantive properties of silences…

        Interestingly, I’ve recently come across some studies on the musical faculty of “absolute pitch” or perfect pitch (which my son has) that elucidate its prohibitive factors when it comes to communication, such as inflexibility in accepting anything other than “perfect” as viable, meaningful, or “right.” Of course, such rigid adherence to objectivity can result in a frustrating, isolating tendency to miss the point.

        It might be said that poets often endure the similarly isolating frustration of their “points” being missed. Though poetry operates largely in the realm of the subjective, its viability does depend on rare perceptive aptitudes that inform its striving for a kind of “right” that transcends “perfect”…

        Sometimes I feel like “perfect” and “right” inhabit the opposite, remotest ends of the same string, both equally infrequently plucked.

        Look at me — singing the blues…

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hmm. I’ve encountered that need for perfection from those with perfect pitch, but had not considered that a factor of their gift. Interesting. I have a decent ear, but do not possess perfect pitch – close is good enough for me when tuning my instruments (and I own an electronic tuner, which really helps). As for poetry, I don’t concern myself much with which points readers take away with them. I definitely have “goals” while writing, and hope that readers may find some of the points, but I’ve discovered that they often find others that I didn’t intend, which pleases me to no end. I heartily agree that “perfect” and “right” often seem to exist in opposition.


          • Yes.
            I should have better explained what I meant by the “point” of poetry — which, to me, is the opportunity for mutual exchange and contribution of conversation between poet and reader. I, too, think there’s no better reward than when my readers perceive and then share with me new/different meanings in my poems from those I’d necessarily had in mind. Leaving one’s words (both their sounds and silences — the said and unsaid) open to invite such engagement can make us feel exquisitely vulnerable — though, not so much to the potential for harsh judgments, criticisms, or misunderstandings (from which some of the most productive conversations can arise…), as to the potential for utter indifference.

            Liked by 1 person

        • music teachers have told me that children with perfect pitch can be problematic as they see no use in learning to read music. it fascinates me. i have two friends with perfect pitch & i must say i envy that innate ability to read the notes being thrust into life.
          that you tie the frustration of those with perfect pitch to the struggle for the poet to be understood is a very acute observation. i do think age matures a persons acceptance how far they are understood, well at least that is how i think about it: when i was a younger poet i was irritated by peoples’ lack of understanding, but i don’t mind so much now.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Up until 2012, only a handful of my friends (mostly from the 80s) knew I wrote, and of them only two, both poets, read and appreciated what I did. I wrote little and published only a few items between 1989 and 2013, and my writing was mostly under the radar, merely something I did on my own and seldom attempted to share. So I have quite a history of being unread and unknown, and haven’t, until the recent past, given much thought to readers and their understanding (or lack thereof), because they didn’t exist. I suppose it was an odd way to go about it, but at the very least, not worrying about being read allowed me to write what I wanted to write. There’s a certain freedom in being a recipient of indifference (even self-induced indifference). 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    • Most poetry eludes me on an intellectual level, at least initially. I have to be attracted in some visceral way – sound, image – in order to approach it that way. Once I’m hooked, then I’ll spend serious time reading the piece. Arthur Sze comes to mind, as does Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge. Their poems are intellectual achievements to be aspired to. But they capture me immediately, and I can easily lose myself for hours in the beauty of their language and art.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought I recognized this one. If anyone (other than Bob) is reading this comment, you really owe it to yourself to get IDES. Bob’s poems alone would be well worth the low cost, but (as the title suggests) there are other poets in there as well, such that I’m pretty sure you’ll find at least one other poem or poet to fall in love with, besides Bob & his work, of course!

    Liked by 2 people

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