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.

While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip

While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip

How do these things I once barely acknowledged
now snare toes or twist ankles, causing me to stumble,

spill coffee and curse. Steps, rocks, pavement, curbs.
Door sills. No matter which, without provocation.

Solitary wasps mate not in flight but in the vicinity
of their nesting area. Three years ago a female

violated our unspoken agreement of mutual
existence; my arm purpled and ballooned

to twice its normal size, and I demolished her nest
for fear that attacks would become habit. Today,

another builds in the same spot. I stoop by,
beneath notice, as she labors to make room

for eggs fertilized with stored sperm from a single
drone. Such diligence should earn rewards.

I stroll to the mailbox and marvel at their ability
to manufacture wood pulp for nests, how

certain species avoid mating with siblings
on the basis of chemical signatures, and that

they voluntarily control the sex of their offspring.
Ah, the wonders of nature! Approaching the door,

I look up and observe the growing nest with
admiration, enter the house without stumbling,

and inhale the fragrance of the perfectly arranged
lilies. The books on the table entice me, so I

pour a glass of malbec and thumb through them
with great pleasure. Soon, after sunset, she will die.

* * *

“While Looking Up at a Working Wasp, I Trip” was published in MockingHeart Review in May 2018.

Letter from the Other Side of Halfway

Read this poem, and consider ordering Stephanie L. Harper’s forthcoming chapbook!

SLHARPERPOETRY

Vision Board_GISH 2016
Letter from the Other Side of Halfway

Dear Bob: In one of my former incarnations
as a starving, family-less, twenty-something Grad
Student, well before the advent of emails & texting,
when handwritten sentiments on stationery were still
in vogue, I certainly sent my share of “Dear Bob Letters.”
The recipients thereof, on the whole a far cry from being
remotely “Bob-like,” included a number of real posers,
some of whom now strut & crow on Facebook like
the ancient, hoary roosters (read: cocks) they clearly are.
As for the others (more of them than you might imagine),
they’re all dead, several by their own hands, even—a stone-
cold statistic (the seeming synchronicity of which is tough
to ignore) I frequently grapple with, sorting through conjured,
a posteriori details & associated, surreal imagery by day, &
chasing after egotistical ghosts in my über-symbolic dreams
by night, always with the conviction that…

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Wasp

wasp

Wasp

Outward, the quest for
space and the wings’

hunger to unfold and
shed this home of dark
flesh and encompassing desire.

And each thing remembered, the broken
sheath, the flowering desert’s return,

reflects the notion of being, of intent
in action and its corollary,

the gift of living through death.

* * *

“Wasp” last appeared here in January 2017.

flowers-in-the-desert

Poem Nominated for a Pushcart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My poem, “Year’s End,” which is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Only This is available via free download from Origami Poems Project. Thank you to Jan and Kevin Keough for this honor!

Year’s End

If I lose myself in breathing,
will the air forgive my forgetfulness?

This oak, too, will stand long after
the last train exits the tunnel.

I worry that my friend may never
clamber past his lowest ambition.

Different and unabated, our words
now stumble over themselves.

Every night forms a morning somewhere:
each year, combined in our shared darkness.

* * *

night

Poetry: Motherhood & Myth in THIS BEING DONE by Stephanie L. Harper

Read Lily Blackburn’s insightful review of Stephanie L. Harper’s This Being Done.

Lemonworld

This Being Done by Stephanie L. Harper

What happens when we read time into everything? History, mythology, the aging of the earth, all in the span of a glimpse, a moment? In This Being Done, time echoes ancient. Thematically, I wondered if ideas for many of these poems were inspired by “How to Take An Amazing Photo of A Solar Eclipse,” being a witness to growth as a parent whose child is diagnosed with autism: “Trust in his gift of seeing every moment in terms of geological time—/ of constantly holding the cycles of mountains/ rising up and eroding away in his mind’s eye… ” From elegy to epitaph, the threads that weave this book together are perspectives on motherhood and femininity seen through both a modern and mythologic lens; in place of sentiment or a conclusion we are given a raging dragon. Harper places the reader in a space…

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