The Body Gives (with recording)

 

The Body Gives

Sometimes the body gives too much.
A tendon frays, the heart mumbles
and no one sees the damaged parts.

Ignoring pain, we continue climbing ladders,
sandpaper breath rasping the morning light.

Little bits of us crumble all the time,
yet we stumble on, pretending.

Then the body kills us with its enthusiasm.

Cells duplicate wildly, plaque explodes.
This enmity within? Defensive maneuvers.

Working alone, I wonder where I might end.

On the floor. In a field. Atop the bed.
Under the surface of a rippling pond
or drifting with smoke

through a snow-clad afternoon
at eight thousand feet. Among
the grocery’s tomatoes and squash
approaching the end of a long list.

At the bar, glass in hand, or in a truck
at a four-way stop, the radio blaring.

Time enough for speculation, they say.
But I wonder: when I jump,

does the earth always rise to greet me?

 

* * * *

“The Body Gives” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.

 

 

Water Witching, We Hear

dry

 

Water Witching, We Hear

The rattle of stalks
along dirt roads,

whispery days
sifting through
parched
light,

you say
patience, my
friend
, and again,

patience.

 

* * *

“Water Witching, We Hear” first appeared on the blog in April 2017.

Self-Portrait as Smudge

 

Self-Portrait as Smudge

Being this cloud on the otherwise
transparent pane, I resist removal,
smearing myself in thinner layers,
still shrouding the angry sky
or the fence post’s sagging
doubt, which is to say
my appearance may lessen
but spread, that you may rub me
out, but I’ll return, always,
beginning with that one small
and delicious obscure point.

 

“Self-Portrait as Smudge” first appeared in October 2019 in Backchannels. Many thanks to the editors for taking this piece.

 

 

 

Reticent as Ever, I Follow the Map (with recording)

 

Reticent as Ever, I Follow the Map

This old bed, knowing our secrets, our love
for the spiders of the world and their guilty

pleasures, wraps its history around us, says
“go easy, my friends,” and leaves us to our

research. I find the scar on your lower
back, that sacred heart of fusion,

trace the line on the map to the freckle
of grace and its inequities, then up to the left

ear, which requires attention. Speech
can only intrude upon my navigations,

yet I can’t refrain from murmuring the words
again, those never-tiring, never-depleting

syllables which always demand repetition,
wave after wave, an ocean of truth,

mingling and dispersing, accepting, giving,
swelling larger and more complex each day.

 

 

 

 

“Reticent as Ever I Follow the Map” was published in July 2019 at OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters. Thank you, Jeff Streeby, for taking this piece.

 

Driving to Work, I Pass Myself

 

 

Driving to Work, I Pass Myself

Some days the drive takes twenty minutes,
on others, thirty or more. Seems I might pass
myself on the right morning if time flexed its
biceps or looped me into a dimensional shift
thick with donuts and tires and lost minutes.
How odd it would be to wave and say “see ya,”
knowing that tendered frustration grows in
distance, until it takes over the entire mirror.
Looking back, I see my frown diminishing
to a lone point in that shrinking van at the
hill’s crest. Will we meet in the parking
garage? Should I wait? You know the rules.

 

This first appeared on the blog in March 2018.

 

Earth

puddle

 

Earth

Tremor and
stone

beset upon the calm.

Now water
lines the road’s

bed, and we see
no means to pass.

Even so
you break what falls.

 

* * *

This first appeared in Ijagun Poetry Journal in December 2013, and is also included in my micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls, available (free of charge) for download from the Origami Poems Project: http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/236-robert-okaji


image

 

Synapses and Other Conjunctions

boot

 

Synapses and Other Conjunctions

My advice? Wear boots, even among the dead.
Our barefoot friend, having separated the rattler’s
head from its body, picked up the six-foot
length to show off, and stepped back onto
the head, which though not alive, still managed
to squeeze venom from the ducts and inject it
through its fangs, into his foot. Consider this
a metaphor, if you must, but don’t belabor
it. This morning I am searching for
connections. The plumber says that when
the overflow is clogged, the sink won’t drain
properly, and I notice similarities between
vision and words and the dryer’s vent — how
twists and hard angles and blurry lint may
confuse the issue, perhaps even start a fire.
And before you say, yes, yes, that’s what
I want, a fire
, consider other possibilities,
not to mention consequences. Confuse
one word for another, and you’re an idiot.
Let your finger tap the wrong key, and the
incorrect letter provides a glimpse into
the future, or at least beyond the neighbor’s
closed door, a passage of signals impossible
to predicate. But differences exist: decapitate
poets, and they won’t bite, or at the very least
their venom will infect your nervous system
indirectly. Other advice? Pause before sending,
look before you leap (or step back). Avoid fast
food and politics. Drink good beer. Laugh often,
breathe deeply. Contemplate your footwear.

 

dryer

 

“Synapses and Other Conjunctions” was written during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was subsequently published in September 2016 at The Blue Nib. Many thanks to Luanne Castle for sponsoring the poem and providing the title.

 

Recording of “Balance”

star lights


Balance

Navigating
by stars,

one ball
buried,

another
gathering,

the dung
beetle

straight-lines,
maintains

position,
forever

looking forward
and up.

 

image

 

“Balance” first appeared here in February 2016, and is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, available for free download from Origami Poems Project.

“Nightdreams” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

Wind

blossoms

Wind

That it shudders through
and presages an untimely end,

that it transforms the night’s
body and leaves us

breathless and wanting,
petals strewn about,

messenger and message in one,
corporeal hosts entwined,

that it moves, that it blends,
that it withdraws and returns without

remorse, without forethought, that it
increases, expands, subtracts,

renders, imposes and releases
in one quick breath, saying

I cannot feel but I touch,
I cannot feel

* * *

“Wind” first appeared in Blue Hour Magazine and is included in my first chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform.

tree