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.

Nocturne with a Line from Porchia

bureau

Nocturne with a Line from Porchia

Everything is nothing, but afterwards.
I rise and the moon disturbs the darkness,
revealing symbols, a few stolen words
on the bureau. Tomorrow I’ll express
my gratitude by disappearing be-
fore I’m found, which is to say goodbye
before hello, a paradigm for the
prepossessed. Compton tells us to imply
what’s missing, like Van Gogh or Bill Monroe,
but why listen to the dead before they’ve
stopped speaking? Unfortunately we throw
out the bad with the good, only to save
the worst. I return to bed, and the floor
spins. Nothing is everything, but before.

 

This first appeared in The Blue Hour Magazine in December 2014, and is also included in my chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. The line “Everything is nothing, but afterwards” comes from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin. Porchia wrote one book in his lifetime, but what a book it was! Often described as a collection of aphorisms, Voices is so much more – each time I open the book, I find new meaning in old lines.

Vincent

And All Around, the Withered

And All Around, the Withered

I total the numbers printed
on passing boxcars,

multiply by seven, then add two,
subtracting every third odd number,

only to find, in the end, myself
tethered to this empty platform,

spelling hapless with integers,
acknowledging Zahlen and

the infinite. Sometimes gravel, too,
calls to me and I observe space

in the path’s patterns, constellation
stacked upon constellation,

multi-dimensional galaxies
expanding in one swooping arc,

heroic eagles and exploding stars
complicit in their deeds and forever

locked in sequence, yet when I explain
my vision, the words emerge

as convex polyhedrons or inverted,
drooled gasps, and people turn aside.

That boy’s two bricks shy a full load, they
say. The lights are on but nobody’s home.

 

“And All Around, the Withered” was published in Steel Toe Review in January 2017.

Prayer

 

Prayer

Death does not choose you at random.
It approaches at your pace, rumbling
downhill or floating in the air,
debris or dandelion fluff,
concealed yet evident.
Listen: a small cloud bumps another,
merging into one larger being —
can you hear its ecstasies?
All the world’s souls, gathered.

 

Boxcar

boxcars

Boxcar

Whose voice lingers
among the gathered stones,

raised then lowered as if
to ensnare followers?

This is not the issue.
Nor should we speak of paper

shuddering in the wind
and the dense glare of shovels

in the night underfoot.
Pray that the road continues

beyond the next curve
or increment of time.

Trust in motion,
the reticence of trees.

paper leaf

“Boxcars” first appeared here in November 2015. It had been moldering in a folder for three decades when I uncovered it. I have no idea what originally sparked it.

in which i make good on a promise to deliver the audio equivalent of the wild kingdom’s fight club, complete with badgers

Listen to Charles Payne’s recording of the 30-30 poem he so gracefully conjured from the challenging mess I provided.

Words and Feathers

They said I was mad. Mad! But I told them I would do it.

Here is my audio recording of my poem “while skydiving, i contemplate the inner ear, stalactites, the half-life of monamine oxidase inhibitors, why i consistently burn my bacon, and whether the chute will open” which you can read (in less time that you took to read that title) at Tupelo’s 30/30 Project page.
Look for Day 10 and the longest title on the page.

Part of the deal was that I would include an audio recording for Robert Okaji in exchange for his sponsoring (and titling) this poem. You can see his site here.

while skydiving

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Self-Portrait with Blue

Blue

Self-Portrait with Blue

Darker shades contain black or grey. I claim
the median and the shortened spectrum, near dawn’s terminus.

In many languages, one word describes both blue and green.

Homer had no word for it.

The color of moonlight and bruises, of melancholy and unmet
expectation, it cools and calms, and slows the heart.

Woad. Indigo. Azurite. Lapis lazuli. Dyes. Minerals. Words. Alchemy. 

On this clear day I stretch my body on the pond’s surface and submerge.

Not quite of earth, blue protects the dead against evil in the afterlife, 
and offers the living solace through flatted notes and blurred 7ths.

Blue eyes contain no blue pigment.

In China, it is associated with torment. In Turkey, with mourning.

Between despair and clarity, reflection and detachment,
admit the leaves and sky, the ocean, the earth.

Water captures the red, but reflects and scatters blue.

Look to me and absorb, and absorbing, perceive.

 

This originally appeared in the Silver Birch Press Self-Portrait Series, and is included in The Circumference of Other, my offering in the Silver Birch Press chapbook collection, IDESpublished in October 2015.

ides front cover 92915

 

Day 10/30 of the Tupelo 30/30 Project (20170810)

Charles Payne is rocking it at the Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. Read his daily poems. Help out if you can!

Words and Feathers

one moment i stand framed in metal
the next the air takes me
i throw myself at the ground….

——

Want to read more? You can. My poem while skydiving, i contemplate the inner ear, stalactites, the half-life of monamine oxidase inhibitors, why i consistently burn my bacon, and whether the chute will open is available to read at the Tupelo 30/30 project page. Check it out like a book from the library.

This prompt is brought to you by the incomparable Robert Okaji. Please go and absorb his site O at the Edges. You will become a better poet, a better reader, nay, a better person, through osmosis.

Please note: Robert supplied the above title and also requested a typed copy of his poem AND an audio recording. I will record the poem before the weekend is out and post a second time, because that’s how I…

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