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.

Rice

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Rice

Yesterday’s rain informs me I’m born of luck and blended
strands, of hope and words forged before a common tongue emerged.

Of my first two languages only one still breathes.

The other manifests in exile, in blurred images and hummed tunes.

Rice is my staple. I eat it without regarding its English etymology,
its transition from Sanskrit to Persian and Greek, to Latin, to French.

Flooding is not mandatory in cultivation, but requires less effort.

Rice contains arsenic, yet I crave its polished grains.

In my monolingual home we still call it gohan, literally cooked rice, or meal.
The kanji character, bei, also means America.

Representing a field, it symbolizes abundance, security, and fertility.

Three rice plants tied with a rope. Many. Life’s foundation.

To understand Japan, look to rice. To appreciate breadth, think gohan.
Humility exemplified: sake consists of rice, water and mold.

The words we shape predicate a communion of aesthetics.

Miscomprehension inhabits consequence.

* * *

“Rice” has appeared here twice before, and is included in my chapbook-length work, The Circumference of Other, published in Ides, a one-volume collection of fifteen chapbooks published by Silver Birch Press and available on Amazon.com.

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The Geography of Silence

laundry

The Geography of Silence

1. Laundry drooping at midday.

2. She dreams off-key, in pastels.

3. With misunderstanding comes anger.

4. Mata! Mata! Again!

5.  Ashes crossing the ocean.

6.  Sweat, and the taste of separation.

7.  Reaching for past moons, she cries.

8.  Death’s shade.

9.  Rice.

10.  Self-sacrifice, the centered gift.

11. Inward, always. Inward.

telescope map

“The Geography of Silence” last appeared here in April 2017.

No One Knows

No One Knows

There, the dream of flying
cars, and the next,

tumbling through soft
glass, inconsiderate and

hopeful as a child
on his birthday,

hands outstretched, waiting.
Unsmiling. You might ask

where this story turns,
whether the glass reconstitutes

or the car crashes,
reminders of a childhood

reconsidered and the simplest
truth, which is no one knows.

“No One Knows” was first published in The Pangolin Review in March 2018.

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.

What Feet Know (with recording)

feet

What Feet Know

The earth and its subterfuge.
Gravity and the points between here and there.

And sometimes the rasp of grainy mud
clenched between toes,
or a rock under the arch,
an explanation too pointed
for display on a page,
too hard, too much for flesh to bear.

No constellations foment underground.
Nothing there orbits a companion.

No light but for that darkness the heel scrapes away.

“What Feet Know” was featured on Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine in December 2016, and is included in my  chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available Available at Amazon.Com and Here.

 

Inhabiting Wang Wei

Lovers of Chinese Poetry: Read this excellent and detailed post on translation, or “transduction,” as it is referred to on Atomic Geography. A thoughtful piece.

Atomic Geography

In The Emptiness of Wang Wei, I transduced Wang’s famous eighth century  poem titled, in English, Deer Park , Deer Enclosure or Deer Fence.  “Transduction”  is my term for a process that reworks a poem’s existing translations (literal or poetic) into a new poem.  It seems most often a strategy applied to ancient Chinese poems.  Ezra Pound in his Cathy Poems was the first to take this approach.  Octavio Paz asserts that despite not knowing any Chinese, Pound created “the modem tradition of classical Chinese poetry in the poetic conscience of the West”. [1]

In my previous post I said  transduction “is an attempt to transform a distant literary energy to a local one”.  Now I might compare it to 3-D printing a mask of an ancestor’s face using the DNA from a lock of hair found in a piece of jewelry.

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