Poem Nominated for a Pushcart


My poem, “Year’s End,” which is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Only This is available via free download from Origami Poems Project. Thank you to Jan and Kevin Keough for this honor!

Year’s End

If I lose myself in breathing,
will the air forgive my forgetfulness?

This oak, too, will stand long after
the last train exits the tunnel.

I worry that my friend may never
clamber past his lowest ambition.

Different and unabated, our words
now stumble over themselves.

Every night forms a morning somewhere:
each year, combined in our shared darkness.

* * *


43 thoughts on “Poem Nominated for a Pushcart

  1. Pingback: Robert Okaji’s Poem Nominated for a Pushcart – Chris Cocca

  2. This poem is a play on words. It talks about the year’s end. If you lose yourself breathing will the air forgive you for forgetting to breathe? You say of the oak, will it remain standing even though the trains have come and gone? Technology changes, oaks live up to 150 years, but the short-lived varieties make it to 50 or 60, (Lundman). Trains have been running for 200 years, beginning in the 1830’s. I have it for the trains. You worry that your friend may never climb beyond his lowest ambition. where ambitions are strong desires to achieve, exertion. What ambition does he have? I never thought of ambitions as having heights. you might think of it as something one hopes to achieve, but it is of singular focus, taken one-at-a-time? Maybe people do have multiple ambitions. I tend to simply have hope that I may achieve the ambition to succeed. I don’t think in terms of specific things as my having an ambition for. The fear is that I will have achieved nothing despite all the different attempts utilizing different things.

    You say that your words stumble over themselves, different and obtaining their original intent. I think our words are a conversation about what poetry is. Yes, in other countries on the other side of the world, it is daybreak. And “each year” is how you explain every night forming a morning, which is awkward, since we are talking the oranges of one day versus the apple of one year. They are different objects, always unequal. We are combined by the darkness we share by year versus the morning forming every night. Do they call this a mixed metaphor?

    “Every night forms a morning somewhere:
    “each year, combined in our shared darkness.”

    Every single night there is a morning somewhere: [How is that?]
    Each year, combined in our darkness. [Is the verb without a subject? Each year we are combined in our darkness? But, then for an entire year, we are combined in our darkness? My darkness is a depression, a looming malice, a doldrum. How, for an entire year are you so combined? it is not shared. It cannot be mutually enjoyed. It is the last place you want to be. Toxicity is not what draws a person, but health and happiness. It may be shared as an affliction, like the cold, but I do not wish to be in the same room. This stanza just seems to state the obvious. One day here is another night somewhere else. But “each year, combined in our shared darkness?” I guess you are talking about how each year you share the depression or shadow self, a naughty side? To me these are just word games and not wisdom.

    Look at T.S. Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton:

    “Time present and time past
    Are both perhaps present in time future,
    And time future contained in time past.
    If all time is eternally present…
    …My words echo
    Thus, in your mind.”

    I think you echo this sentiment. But, there is something progressive in Eliot’s poetry. It moves forward. It rolls along picking up mass. I am just not convinced of the substance of your poem. It’s trickery and illogical. It is burdened by abstraction and awkwardness. If it depends on mere emotion, it cannot win. The balls that collect in poetry are the spheres of meaning that make sense and enrapture the mind. They are a series of footsteps or notes that compose a beautiful and true melody. The destination is not just a walk, but a purposeful ambition. As I once argued about Sylvia Plath’s poetry, her connotations and denotations are equally considered and applicable. She writes 3-dimensional chess games that can see all levels at once. Great poetry is of sound mind and prophetic. It tells of the issues of the day, what is important. Lyn Hejinian, for example, in my life and my life in the nineties would repeat a line from the poem that came before, and what it taught me about language is that there are shadows from the past that haunt the present. But, you often do not know that you’ve been touched by one, which of course relates to our fundamental personalities. As Freud and so many others have argued, we are affected by what happens to us. And we often do not know this.

    Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome. As you well know my comments are to only be seen as my relationship with the work in the context of my experience and perspective. A dean of the Art Department of the University of Hawaii, Gaye Chan, once remarked about art that it derives from the artist’s own language and meaning. One must learn the language of the artist to understand the art. While I disagreed with her in that I thought, especially with language-based art, that the “words” in a work were limited in meaning to the connotations and denotations of words found in dictionaries and grammar, which introduced their own meaning, see Philosophical Grammar by Ludwig Wittgenstein and general grammatical rules. Having said that, a poem moves through the mind turning on all sorts of lights in the self. My experience is not going to be your experience much less an articulate one, where everything initially seems to be a knee-jerk. There is defensiveness if the reader has been harmed outside of the reading, suffers gout, for example, cannot short-term remember things, and is operating on a frayed line to the world. He takes the work, which in this case is challenging and reminiscent of words on the side of the old Berkeley Art Museum, which were so abstract but warm and inviting as to still move the reader into the cocoon of self and cause him to appreciate the evocative language and compares those words now only a memory of the feelings or impressions had. Or compares as I did the work with “Burnt Norton” since your poem was about time. Art becomes compared, criticized and misunderstood, but that’s still art and the provocative work’s responsibility not for the sake of blaming the artist, because as at least I believe that artists are just ears to the eloquence of an idea (Tomita). They can still be blamed for noise, but not with the outcome of a correct rendering. Yes, I was engaged. Just not enough to relax, organize my thoughts, and put something forth that wasn’t all gush. That was my experience, not yours with the muse. Sometimes, he and I are in a position of my listening to him, but I often do not have a pen. Let me just say, I gave you time and energy that I feel was not wasted. You got to see an old man in the wrong attire try to run down a path he could only cover in increments of a few feet at a time but for he had to stop or die.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I also did notice what seemed like large, disconnected concepts bridged by the space of abstraction or warmth, as I have alluded. Warmth to me is produced by words, in the Gestaltic parlance that are emotionally positive or eternally inviting, like “sky” or “light,” or statements like your:

    “Every night forms a morning somewhere:
“each year, combined in our shared darkness.”

    Liked by 1 person

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