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.

A Cheese Omelet at Midnight

cracking eggs

 

A Cheese Omelet at Midnight

You can’t ever leave without saying something,
no matter how insipid. That sweater looks good
on you. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. I’m sorry
I burned the omelet. Nasdaq has plunged 3% 

since last week. And I, in return, can’t let you go without
replying in equal measure. It matches your eyes. I love
to smell rain in August. That cheddar was delicious.
Maybe I’ll start a savings account. Next month.

So I wash dishes when you’re gone, wipe down the
counters, pour salt into the shaker, grab a book, join my
cat in bed. This tune’s been overplayed, the grooves’re
worn down. Maybe next time I’ll say what I mean,

tell you what I want: It would look better in a heap
on the floor. How about a shower here, tonight? Kiss
me and I’ll never think of it again. I don’t give a rat’s
ass about the stock exchange. Step away from that door!

I’ll make your lunch, butter your 7-grain toast, assemble
your IKEA furniture, balance your books, even dye
my hair pink, tattoo a pig on my thigh and drink light beer
in your honor, if you would agree to say what’s on your

mind. On second thought, don’t. Tell me, instead,
what I want to hear, but make it heart-felt. Truthful
and direct. Poached but earnest. Hard-boiled but tender.
I’ll cook your eggs. Invest in me. You’ll earn interest.

 

* * *

This originally appeared in August 2015, as the 25th offering in the Tupelo Press 30-30 fund raiser. Thank you, Pleasant Street, for sponsoring this.

 

Asparagus omelet MGD©

Love, Scattered (Cento)

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Love, Scattered (Cento)

I cull and offer this and this,
and these last definite whorls

or later star or flower, such
rare dark in another world,

outdistancing us, madness
upon madness, the crest

and hollow, the lift and fall,
ah drift, so soft, so light,

where rollers shot with blue
cut under deeper blue as the

tide slackens when the roar of
a dropped wave breaks into it,

and under and under, this
is clear—soft kisses like bright

flowers— why do you dart and
pulse till all the dark is home?

I am scattered in its whirl.

 

* * *

This cento is composed exclusively of lines taken from fifteen pages in the Collected Poems of H.D., 6th printing, 1945. Hilda Doolittle is a fascinating figure in 20th century American poetry. You might look at the Poetry Foundation’s biography for further information:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/h-d

image

 

Inevitable River

 

Inevitable River

Transparent beauty, I adore the way
your mind filters and reconstructs patterns,
waves transcending straight lines through
color-drenched nature and the coming days.

Like a second page cleansed of words,
or a bulldozed path through a mine field,
we start our separate lives together, anew.
Even the winged beings admire us.

Our pasts hover behind,
shadowing our drives through lost towns
and lonesome adolescent dreams,

falling further behind each day, as we
flow forward, inevitable river of we,
opening to the future’s unclear certainties.

 

 

I read “Inevitable River” yesterday at my wedding to Stephanie L. Harper. Follow the link to find her poem “Trace.” Poetry keeps giving!

“Inevitable River” first appeared in November 2019 at Twist in Time Magazine. Many thanks to editors Renee, Adrienne and Tianna for accepting this piece.

 

 

 

This Oak

  

This Oak

Never rooted in Tibet,
has not watched a whale breach
a November Pacific dusk, or guzzled
bitter beer near Vesuvius. Nor has it
absorbed the warmth of a loved one’s
hip on a frozen morning long after
the embers’ glow has greyed
and the windows blossomed
white. It cannot know the beauty
of disparate instruments playing
in joyous harmony. It will whisper
no incantations, does not smile,
won’t ever feel the anticipation
of a first kiss after a complicated
courtship. The bouquets of Bordeaux
elude it, as do tears or the benefits
of laughter. Why, then, do I envy it so?

 

 

“This Oak” was published in Slippery Elm (print only) published by Findlay University in Findlay, Ohio, in spring 2019. 

 

The Purity of Starch

 

The Purity of Starch

Betrayal or spark, I cannot refuse this
course. One look, the merest touch,
and I imagine lips and inverted
hearts, and books lying open on
pine stumps, caught in a wavering
dream of wildflowers and perfumed
hair, of short nights and tangled
sheets, the lemon-half moon hovering
overhead. This is too much. It is never
enough. I want the purity of heavy starch,
the stillness of sanctity, of certainty
in discretion and falsehood strummed
true. I want this flaw healed. I want
skin on skin, tongue to tongue, and
unuttered words seared through flesh
and into bone in that chamber where
everything is nothing, and implication
drills deeper than truth, truer than love,
and only we remain hidden at its core.
But today’s rain carries warnings
of rising waters and wreckage washed
downstream, and as I listen to recordings
of your voice, because that is what I have
today, I sip coffee and wait, knowing
the emptying begins in this moment, now.

 

* * *

I wrote this poem just over two years ago. Today we’re getting married…

Morning Suizen

 

Morning Suizen

Boundless, it sips direction in the way of all music,
tonguing each note for its salt.

We call this ecstasy. Or peace.
Follow, and they still escape, always beyond
our outstretched fingers.

Exhale slowly. What do you know?

That long tunnel, ribbed in silence.
The scent of burning cedar.
Days framed in darkness and birdsong.

 

* * *

Note: Suizen is the practice of playing the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute, as a means of attaining self-realization.

 

“Morning Suizen” first appeared on Nine Muses Poetry. Many thanks to editor Annest Gwilym for taking this piece.

The Draft (with recording)

 

The Draft

All memories ignite, he says, recalling
the odor of accelerants and charred

friends. Yesterday I walked to the sea
and looking into its deep crush

sensed something unseen washing
out, between tides and a shell-cut foot,

sand and the gull’s drift, or the early names
I assign to faces. This is not sadness.

Somewhere the called numbers meet.

 

* * *

“The Draft” first appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art.

In the Key of Your Hour

blueguitar


In the Key of Your Hour 

The words I sing are draped in silence,
wedged between notes yet flowing forward.

Stop-time presents the illusion of interrupted tempo and meter.

Perception informs our spirits.

The old guitar hangs on the wall and seldom speaks,
preferring instead to lightly hum when the wind blows just so.

The conceit of two right hands. A slamming door.

Music enters my room by subterfuge, but exits boldly.

If simultaneity is relative, how do we assign primacy
to an overtone? One voice, one whole.

We must respond to our bodies. In kind, with trust.

I ask you to listen without considering the requisite commitment.

The broken circle represents common time replete with imperfections,
linking the measurable to the internal well.

Gather what comes, no matter the source.

Mark time and repeat: harmonics, the quivering string. Breath.

 

 

* * *

“In the Key of Your Hour” appeared here in September 2016, and is also in my chapbook-length work, The Circumference of Other, which is included in IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, published by Silver Birch Press in 2015.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Tree

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Tree

where you go
the wind follows
as if no

choice remains but
that of sun
and oak an

attraction such that
limbs curve to
light a certainty

which cautions us
to intrude lest
we lose all

sight and sense
of beauty you
are this tree

 

 

A Walk Through the Live Oaks

 

Written in the 80s, “Tree” first appeared here in December 2014.

Epiphanies

Don't Say That jar, collecting coins for bad words

 

Epiphanies

What greater doubt
than if

preceding only,
or hope cascading through the withheld
unspoken phrase?

Or the conditional, as it slows to place
an obstacle in its very own
path. If only I could

I would deny its existence,
but the conjunctive

bears blame as well,
though nothing’s put before

the preposition (which one
would certainly never end with).

 

* * *

“Epiphanies” first appeared here in April 2015.

 

CUE 8