About robert okaji

At one time I was a sailor. I once owned a bookstore. I live in Texas with my wife, two dogs, and a few books.

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

Who do you think I am, what will
grace serve, where in this moonless
void might you lie, can we echo
through the hours and never attach
ourselves to one discernable tree?
Is query my only song? Is sadness
yours? Wrapped around these
priceless silhouettes, our voices
merge downhill near the creek’s
rustle, below the seeping clouds
and stars yet somehow above the
night and tomorrow’s slow ascent
into more questions, more doubt.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl” first appeared in Issue 125 of Right Hand PointingThank you to editors Dale Wisely, Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp and José Angel Araguz for taking this piece.

 

On Parting (after Tu Mu)

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On Parting (after Tu Mu)

This much fondness numbs me.
I ache behind my drink, and cannot smile.
The candle too, hates parting,
and drips tears for us at dawn.

A non-poet friend asked why I’m dabbling in these adaptations. After all, she said, they’ve already been translated. Why do you breathe, I replied, admittedly a dissatisfying, snarky and evasive answer. So I thought about it. Why, indeed. The usual justifications apply: as exercises in diction and rhythm, it’s fun, it’s challenging. But the truth is I love these poems, these poets, and working through the pieces allows me to inhabit the poems in a way I can’t by simply reading them. And there is a hope, however feeble, of adding to the conversation a slight nuance or a bit of texture without detracting from or eroding the original.

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Much feeling but seem all without feeling
Think feel glass before smile not develop
Candle have heart too reluctant to part
Instead person shed tear at dawn

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This first appeared on the blog in October 2014.

Dry Well

 

 

 

Dry Well 

I trace the symbols.

In the dirt, among the grubs and crooked
weeds. Writing of loss. Of missing things.

Wondering if words will fill my mouth
with wool or grit. With pebbles and salt.

If truth is what I want.

 

* * *

 

“Dry Well” first appeared in Vox Populi in August 2019. I’m grateful to editor Michael Simms for his steadfast support.

 

Somehow Dawn

 

Somehow Dawn

I don’t know what to say. Or how.
Feeling that I am on the upslope,
not close. Not wrong. I want
to be that hollowed space
in the hackberry’s trunk,
the calm of darkened light.
And more. Some honey, dripped
from the spoon. A house finch,
fluttering. I will whittle my losses,
carve out needs. She will tell me
the history of our days. She will
smile, engrave her initials on my
chest. Somehow, the birds still
sing. Somehow, dawn trickles in.

 

“Somehow Dawn” was first published in August 2019 at Vox Populi. I am grateful to Michael Simms for his support, and am thrilled to be a regular contributor to this lively publication.

Shadow (with Recording)

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Shadow

walking,
crushing juniper berries
at dusk

the dog shadows me
in his absence

 

* * *

“Shadow” first appeared here in April, 2015. It could be considered a companion piece to “Mother’s Day,” which is included in the July 2016 edition of The Lake.

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

 

Dashi

Dashi

I make dashi with water, dried bonito and seaweed,
and maybe a few drops of soy sauce for added flavor.

A simple broth, assembled by hand to enhance, a
concept mislaid in this pre-packaged world.

Today I have blown three notes through the shakuhachi,
each one separate, but all gathered under one roof

for no tangible purpose, released to entropy
and the drops coalescing on the window.

We never know what stew will result from the day’s
efforts, whose lips will force air through which root

end. I close my eyes and imagine the second note’s
shape, how it bells over raindrops to absorb

their sound, bending into the third note spiraling up
and away from my hands, my eyes, my breath.

* * *

“Dashi” and “Inheritance” first appeared in The Closed Eye Open, a publication focusing on consciousness. Many thanks to editors Daniel A. Morgan, Maya Highland and Aaron Lelito for taking this piece.

Poem Up at Compass Rose

 

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My poem “Limping Uphill through the Mist, I Consult My Dead Dog and Dream of Indianapolis and the Woman Who is Not Yet There” is live at Compass Rose.. I am grateful to editor Kelly Easton for publishing this piece, which appears in my latest chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, available from Slipstream Press. Signed copies are also available via Loud Bug Books.

 

Poem Up at Verse Daily

tunnel2My poem “Memorial Day” is live at Verse Daily.. I am grateful to editor J.P. Dancing Bear for publishing this piece, which appears in my latest chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, available from Slipstream Press. Signed copies are also available via Loud Bug Books.

This is quite the honor for me. I never dared dream about having a poem on Verse Daily, as such things don’t happen to random old guys off the street. Until they do!

And: A Mythology

 

And: A Mythology

Balancing the chair on two legs,
you claim no past,
and gravity,
though complicit in the future,
aligns itself with the mass.
No connections fuse the two.
Or, lying there, you bridge gaps,
clasping hands with distant cousins,
awake in the moment
yet ready to drift and continue,
a solitary seed awaiting nourishment,
steady, existing only between.

 

“And: a Mythology” first appeared in May 2020 at Literati Magazine. Many thanks to editor Renée Sigel for taking this and several other pieces.

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In Praise of Darkness

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In Praise of Darkness

Night falls, but day
breaks. A raw deal,

no doubt, but fairness
applies itself unevenly. Who

chooses weeds over
lies, flowers over truth?

Last night’s rain fell, too,
but didn’t crack the drought.

Again, we think injustice!
Again, we consider falls.

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“In Praise of Darkness” is included in my out-of-print chapbook If Your Matter Could Reform. A few signed copies are still available via Loud Bug Books.