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.

Palinode (salt, mask, descent)

mask

 

Palinode (salt, mask, descent)

Tracing the map to the swaying places, she rises
through the interior world, garnering peace by
syllable. Water, clouds and sand mark her ascent.
The expectation is return, renewal. My friend did not
awaken this morning, and tonight I praise her
passage with drink and song. Matter into spirit,
mountain into sky, redemption, freedom. We bathe in
light, reclaiming the liminal. Our tears evaporate,
leaving salt and untrod paths in our wake.

The paths in our wake delimit the future, but
everything falls. Which do we desire more, the grasp
or its release? That instant preceding fear defines a
yearning particular to its course, a cycle of regression
and progress: ancestors descend into human or
animal form, die, depart to the heavens, and return
anew. Distilled power, a bridge to the spirits, the
mask unshutters and conceals the conscious mind.
Opening my eyes, I release the sun.

I release the sun and observe the results. From sky
to soil, from above to below, to solidity. Spirit
acquires matter, disperses and regroups. Rain and
alluvion, flooded homes, the dark night of childish
laughter. Each to her own path, each to an end. Muting
the string, I touch the harmonic into the world, linking
civility to proportion, lowering dissonance. Everything
falls. Everything. From curve to angle, we resist and
rejoice. In this design parabola, she descends.

 

* * *

“Palinode (salt, mask descent)” is included in my recently released chapbook, I Have a Bird to Whistle (7 Palinodes), still available here at the pre-publication price of $7.50.

ascent

“Palinode (salt, mask, descent)” was first published in Otoliths in slightly different form.

Osso Buco

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Osso Buco

The reconciled, the residue of one’s
virtues displayed or absorbed

that within become the basis for
talk: furtive movements, the knife’s

gentle persuasion, wine
afforded the quality of enhancement.

We must preserve the truth, and other
disingenuous phrases, as if we may

admit our tastes only at great cost
to our politics and sense of being.

And fruitful loss – the reduction
sauce, or stock evaporated – which

attaches in dissipation
the grace of subtlety. To be more

with less. To be apparent yet
concealed. To be, in turn, aware.

 

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“Osso Buco” first appeared here in March 2015.

 

N Is Its Child

 

N Is Its Child

If darkness produces all, from where do we obtain nothing?

As a line becomes the circle, becomes a mouth, becomes identity.

In mathematics, n signifies indefinite; in English, negation.

The no, the non, the withdrawal, the taking away.

A heart with trachea represented zero in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

My mouth forms the void through the displaced word.

Conforming to the absent, the missing tongue serves soundlessness.

Aural reduction, the infinite unclenched: n plus n.

Shiva, creator and destroyer, defines nothingness. As do you.

One and one is two, but zero and zero is stasis.

Pythagoreans believed that all is number, and numbers possess shape.

The letter N evolved from a cobra to its present form.

One may double anything but zero.

Unspoken thought, disorder. The attenuated voice swallowing itself.

 

* * *

N Is Its Child” was first published in Issue 4 of ReservoirI am grateful to editor Caitlin Neely for accepting this piece.

 

Arthritis

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Arthritis

If at night I stray in thought,
dreaming of nimble fingers

and my departed dog’s walk,
will you smile

when I scratch his absent ear
and apologize for the times

I failed him? Even combined,
all the words in these unread books

could never soothe the guilt
of leisure and complacency, nor

match the joy of jumping
for the kicked ball, no matter the

outcome, despite the consequences.

 

image

“Arthritis” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

 

Between

between

 

Between

1

Living between, we watch what flows below us shed itself.

And what remains after the drought subsides?

I don’t recall the instance of assignation, of color-imprinted
awareness and stones erupting from the earth,

nor the paper’s texture and the faint odor of chemicals reacting,
but in this moment I embrace bitter coffee, the wrecked-nerve

hammer-strikes pulsing from hip to ankle, squealing brakes
and the rain shallowing morning’s ridge as if to say

enjoy me now
for I may never return
.

2

Faith flickers in the wind, darting among the weeds.

Risen from payment, penalty, punishment, revenge, the word pain
establishes justification where none need exist.

Interpreting light and sound, scent and heat, we converse.

The dog shivers in bed and I lay a towel over her,
affixing content to involuntary movement.

Stepping through space, crossing the stream.

Those things we don’t know.

Three feet below me the snake’s head ripples towards the far side,
a V of turbulence dissecting the calm.

Everything that can be contained contains us as we in turn
envelop one another. I take your hand and press forward.

3

Connected, we part, only to return and part again.

My hand stopped inches away and the diamondback slithered off
under the workbench, seeking peace.

Abandoned skin, abandoned words. Even the cactus grows thirsty.

The paradox of becoming what you are not. Today, sitting hurts
and standing provides little relief.

In one of two halves I find myself. In the other, your laughter rings.

Like rumblings of earthen discontent or the hiss of air
exiting waterless pipes, we emerge, aimless, exhausted.

Inhabiting one world, we seek others.

 

* * *

“Between” appeared in Clade Song, one of my favorite poetry journals, in August 2016. 

 

 

Destined by Gravity to Fail, We Try

 

Destined by Gravity to Fail, We Try

Having fallen from the roof not once, but twice,
I verify that it is not the fall but the sudden stop that hurts.

The objectivist sense of the little: the and a, my house in this world.

Galileo postulated that gravity accelerates all falling bodies at the same rate.

While their etymologies differ, failure and fall share commonalities,
though terminal velocity is not one.

The distance between the glimpsed and the demonstrated.

Enthralled in the moment, Icarus drowned.

Rumor has it his plunge was due not to melting wax but to an improper mix
of rectrices and remiges: parental failure.

Thrust and lift. Drag. Resistance.

Acknowledgment of form in reality, in things.

When the produced drag force equals the plummeting object’s weight, the
object will cease to accelerate and will move at a constant speed.

To calculate impact force accurately, include the stopping distance in height.

Followed by long periods of silence.

 

house

This first appeared on the blog in December 2015.