Gulf

gulf

 

Gulf
for M.V.

Which looms wider, its sky or water? The birds, here, too,
reconvene in greater streaks. This morning I stomped around
Paisano, examining the grasses and soil, the rocks and various
configurations of clouds, and listened to experts discuss
prescribed burns and how the land’s contours can determine
sequence and efficacy. The mockingbird whose territory
we occupy has disappeared. Perhaps he’s just moved on.
I heard a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday, but never saw it,
and of course the rattlers at the ranch are still underfoot, just
less apparent this time of year. I looked closely, as always,
but never spied one. What else did I miss? The rich people
on the bluffs bulldoze habitat, poison creeks and erect their
Italianate villas, caring not a whit for the breeding warblers
or the landscape, although they might pony up a few bucks
for an environmental charity if sucked-up to properly. Given
a choice between the two, I’d pick the snakes every time;
they don’t smile or offer spiked drinks and stories of their
conquests, and usually warn before striking. Even a minor
deity might take offense and crack open a new fault in the
earth between this place and theirs, widening it by inches
with each presumption, every falsehood, whether shaded
in unrelated facts or illogic, until that shifting space could
be spanned solely by a bridge planked with truth and good
manners, and, yes, by mutual consent. Looking back, I
find many examples of these bridges collapsing in utero,
but we keep trying. Your story of the gulf coast storm
reminded me of weeks spent on calm water, and seeing,
no matter where I turned, blue meeting blue, from horizon
to horizon, the sky never broken by bird or cloud, born
anew each day, always looking between, never down.

 

 

“Gulf” was published in West Texas Literary Review in March 2017.

 

Because You Cook

 

Because You Cook

You know the pleasure of
hunger, of patience
and a task well done.

Dice onion, peppers – one hot,
one sweet – saute them in olive oil,

fold them into an egg
cooked flat. Add
crumbled goat cheese, basil.

Look away.
Morning ascends, then declines,
but night drifts in, confident,
ferrying these odors among others.

Accept what comes but choose wisely.
Light the candle. Shift the burden.

 

* * *

“Because You Cook” first appeared in Ristau: A Journal of Being in January 2018. I am grateful to editor Robert L. Penick for taking this piece.

 

Yellow, Lost (with recording)

 

 

Yellow, Lost

The forgotten poem, existing in title only: Yellow.

Which is a bruise at three weeks, or memory’s shade in autumn.

In what black folder does it hide? In which blinding light?

I take comfort in primaries, lose sleep at the edges.

Where fraying begins and annotation dwindles to scrawled lines.

Above the bones and flesh of the Egyptian gods. Above my books.

Within these lost minutes. Those moons, bereaved. The hours.

Desire germinates even after our rainless decades. Yellow, again.

The color of sulfur (the devil’s realm) or the traitor’s door.

Of cowardice and warning. Of aging and decay.

How to recover what’s sifted away, the residue of our loves?

Each day more bits break off, never to be reattached.

But you, I blend with the sky, perfecting trees, the grass.

 

* * *

“Yellow, Lost” was published in wildness, Issue no. 10, in October 2017. wildness is an imprint of Platypus Press, which published my work Interval’s Night, a mini-digital chapbook, in December 2016 in their 2412 series. If you’re not familiar with wildness, check it out. In fall 2016 Poets & Writers named it in their article Nine New Lit Mags You Need to Read.

 

RO

Ro

When this note fades
will it join you in that place
above the sky
or below the waves
of the earth’s plump
body? Or will it
circle back, returning to
my lips and this
hollow day
to aspire again?

 

 

Note: Ro designates the fingering required to produce a particular note on the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute. In this case, closing all holes.

 

Riddle, Dollar, String

 

Riddle, Dollar, String 

Living between, she pretends the comfort of walls
within walls, the unseen’s dispensation.
A slow dragging. The raked leaves.

And all the naked oaks bowing to the wind,
feeling the scratch of impending growth,
the twig’s pearl poised to push through
this mask, stolen sounds dotting the morning.

Later, watching lizards on the wall
or the haze of bees surrounding the agave.
No one pays. Limestone. Mulch. Light.
Unformed thoughts snaking through.

Like that line wrapped around her waist,
another purpose only she could explain.

“Riddle, Dollar, String” first appeared in The New Reader Magazine, in March 2018.

(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

file5691252161803m

 

(Hotel Eden) In Full Light We Are Not Even a Shadow

Which is to say clarity persists in
increments, in the silent space between
color and lens, within parables seen
in the incomplete: straw, hand. Imagine

white valued more than manner as hidden
thought remains obscured. Lower your eyes, lean
forward. Perspectives tilt towards the mean,
suggesting purpose. When we examine

intent, do we find it? The irony
of bottled cork, of sullied paradise,
a coiled wire, the parrot whose voice,

unheard, implicates us. What felony
must we commit to admit the device
in play? Pull or release? The mimic’s choice.

 

* * *

Notes: “In full light we are not even a shadow” is a line from Antonio Porchia’s Voices.

Hotel Eden is the title of a piece of art by Joseph Cornell. An image may be found here:
http://www.wikiart.org/en/joseph-cornell/untitled-the-hotel-eden-1945

DSC_1972

This made its first appearance here in March 2015.

 

Aubade (Inca Dove)

file0002005846098

Aubade (Inca Dove)

Such delicacy
evokes the evolution of hand
and wing, a growth

reflecting all we’ve come
to know. Two doves

sit on the fence, cold wind ruffling
their feathers. What brings them
to this place of no

shelter, of wind and rain
and clarity defied? Fingers

often remember what the mind
cannot. Silence
complicates our mornings.

This was originally published in The Balcones Review in 1987. Seems I was enthralled with birds back then, too…

FenceDrama1

Sometimes Love is a Dry Gutter

Sometimes Love is a Dry Gutter 

Or a restless leaf, a footprint.

Is fault on a blameless day,
scrawled on a washed-out sky.

My friend’s music orbits his home,
worms through the cracks
in the bluest lines, ever new

and permanent, staining even his hope
long after the lights stutter away.
And the rain’s attenuated sorrows?

They’re coming, he says. Like goats
through a fence. Like lava. Like tomorrow.

* * *

“Sometimes Love is a Dry Gutter” was first featured at Vox Populi in January 2017. I’m grateful to editor Michael Sims for supporting my work. It is the opening poem to my recently released chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, which is available here for $10 plus shipping and tax (where applicable). Simply type in “Okaji” to view all of my available books, or just add the title.

Politics

snake

 

Politics

No snakes here,
but a little voice

says the mice
will return,

and which
do you prefer,

the one that
gnaws open

ramen packages
then craps

on your plate
or the one

who takes
its prey

under the house
and swallows

it whole,
leaving

no bones
behind?

 

dc

 

“Politics” first appeared here in January 2017.

Icarus

feather02-2

 

Icarus

the answer is
not the history
of flight but

a question of
wings a notion
born of desperation

and fright each
quill ruffled by
the delicate tongue

of air can
only reflect this
fortune a dream

but never a
tragedy the gift
of gravity’s denial

 

sun

 

Written probably in 1985 or 1986, this is the first poem I titled “Icarus.” After lurking in a drawer for decades, it made its first public appearance here on the blog in December 2017.