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.

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.

 

Aftermath

 

Aftermath 

   rust. Being one phase of corruption, a matter of
resolve. When I surrender, the implication is of giving
over, moving above, allowance. Delivering despite
the steady flaking away at what colors me intact.
The quiet evening had lulled me to this inevitability:
when oxides subsume the original metal, the expansion
may result in catastrophe. Yesterday’s arc, tomorrow’s
trial. Failure’s bloom.

 

* * *

 

“Aftermath” first appeared in the print publication Sheepshead Review. Thank you to Audrey Schultz and staff for taking this poem.

Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past

 

Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past

Dear Ken: I’m fixated on open faucets and drained tanks,
on cracked PVC and browned grass, denial and what’s to
come, thinking of old dogs and accusations and how
the morning’s lopsided beginning has wrung out every
shred of positive emotion absorbed overnight. Then
a pinpoint emerges, swelling, until I can see, as through
a spidery windshield, tomorrow and its improbabilities.
Last weekend I built a window screen to exact measurements,
only to discover the sill tilted on the north by a quarter-inch,
and in order to install the damned thing I had to shorten
its right side, ruining the rectangle. Perfection eludes me,
even when guided by tape and square, especially in this
climate of exacerbated deterioration, which has not, alas,
excluded me – sciatic nerve, shoulders, knees, hands, etc.
But enough whining. Tea leaves predict that in a few hours
I’ll cross the creek trickling over the road, check the cisterns
and drop off tomorrow’s drinks before heading home to
swat mosquitoes and grill sage-rubbed pork kebabs while
sipping hoppy brews. That’s as far into the future as I
care to venture. The Cowboys drafted a lineman named
Taco, the weeds need mowing and my belly says noon
is fast approaching. I’d like carnitas, but have only rice
and beans, which probably signifies something far deeper
than my conscience will admit, trials I’ll never face. A
thunderstorm looms in the forecast, but my left ankle says
it ain’t happening. What do your mended bones claim?
Mine usually plead the fifth, but hey, they’re careful,
these days, and with good reason. Take care. Bob

 

* * *

“Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past” was featured at Vox Populi in December 2017.

 

Self-Portrait as Wave

 

Self-Portrait as Wave

Feeling limited, I succumb to surge,
disperse, reassemble, return
in the calming swirl. Nothing
resembles me. I relinquish this piece,
retain that, and reinforced,
reside in the whorl, swollen,
winnowed to a point and capped,
roar and rumble, shredded,
whole yet apart, a solitary
fist crashing through another
watery torso in response, in
resonance, again, again.

 

 

“Self-Portrait as Wave” was first published in the inaugural issue of Kissing Dynamite. Many thanks to editor Christine Taylor for taking this piece.

 

 

Landscape with Jar

 

 

Landscape with Jar
(after Wallace Stevens)

What vanishes more readily than the breakable
and transparent? Not here, not now, it says,

never voluble in the morning. I have work.
The horizon exists simply in perception.

Try to touch it – the hill meets the sky
only from afar, offering discordance

up close, no measurement possible.
And among the trees and vines, a glimmer

of spite, twisted open. Moving closer, we see
through. We see rocks, a bird. We see air.

 

 

“Landscape with Jar” was first published in Birch Gang Review in July 2017.

 

The Gift

 

The Gift 

 What lasts longer than ink
or stone or a pond’s ripple?

I want to give you
the deepest green.

Memory circles back,
highways turn

to dirt, the dead blossom
in children’s voices.

Place this carnation in a vase.
Swallow these pills.

Don’t move, don’t speak.
Let me do this.

 

 

“The Gift” was first published in Brave Voices in January 2019.Many thanks to Audrey Bowers and her editorial staff for taking this piece.