Which is not to say lightning or hail.
Sometimes I forget to open the umbrella
until my glasses remind me: Wake up, you’re
wet! If scarcity breeds
value, what is a thunderhead worth
in July? A light shower in August?
Even spreadsheets can’t tell us.
“In Praise of Rain” is included in my recently released chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, available from the publisher, Slipstream Press. Signed copies may be purchased exclusively from Loud Bug Books in Indianapolis. Simply type in “Okaji” to view all of my available books, or just add the title. $10 plus shipping and tax (where applicable).
A father sings to his son,
dead two days,
and the platitudes persist.
Widow of night. Lantern’s trick.
What trace, you wonder,
exists of humanity in these etched
walls? Light bleeds through a crack
like rules unheeded and scattered.
Another sheer looming of hours.
The song, continued.
“Aleppo” was first published in Vox Populi in August 2018. I am grateful to editor Michael Simms for his continuing support of my work.
Quiet end what wait
Day day must go return
Wish seek fragrant grass go
Grieve with old friend separated
On road who mutual help
Understanding friend life this scarce
Only should observe solitude
Again close native area door
One night exhausts another,
layering sheets and blankets,
wrinkles and folds. Oh, the
body wants to still the mind,
and shedding this weight,
float freely through the night.
Your memory of sleep’s touch
withers as you lie there,
absorbing the fan’s pattern.
How wonderful, then, to finally
drift across the room and settle
in that relaxed corner, among the
cobwebs and shadows and those
frustrated hours now set aside.
Walking hand-in-hand with what, who presupposes why, and when huddles with where before skittering
off to its murky corner. Sometimes
I present myself as a shy minute
or a cloud’s effigy streaming across
a scruffy field. Few suspect the truth.
Answers ricochet from the limestone
wall, but no one nabs them. I react
quickly and offer the unknown, the
life I claim, my name, in return.
* * *
“Self-Portrait as Question” was first published in Rue Scribe in September 2018. Many thanks to Eric Luthi and the editors at Rue Scribe for accepting this piece and several others.
The winner of Slipstream’s 35th Annual Poetry Chapbook Competition, Buddha’s Not Talking is now available for purchase through Slipstream Press. Signed copies are available exclusively from Loud Bug Books via Biblio.com here. Simply type in “Okaji” to view all of my available books, or just add the title. $10 plus shipping and tax (where applicable).
Which looms wider, its sky or water? The birds, here, too,
reconvene in greater streaks. This morning I stomped around
Paisano, examining the grasses and soil, the rocks and various
configurations of clouds, and listened to experts discuss
prescribed burns and how the land’s contours can determine
sequence and efficacy. The mockingbird whose territory
we occupy has disappeared. Perhaps he’s just moved on.
I heard a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday, but never saw it,
and of course the rattlers at the ranch are still underfoot, just
less apparent this time of year. I looked closely, as always,
but never spied one. What else did I miss? The rich people
on the bluffs bulldoze habitat, poison creeks and erect their
Italianate villas, caring not a whit for the breeding warblers
or the landscape, although they might pony up a few bucks
for an environmental charity if sucked-up to properly. Given
a choice between the two, I’d pick the snakes every time;
they don’t smile or offer spiked drinks and stories of their
conquests, and usually warn before striking. Even a minor
deity might take offense and crack open a new fault in the
earth between this place and theirs, widening it by inches
with each presumption, every falsehood, whether shaded
in unrelated facts or illogic, until that shifting space could
be spanned solely by a bridge planked with truth and good
manners, and, yes, by mutual consent. Looking back, I
find many examples of these bridges collapsing in utero,
but we keep trying. Your story of the gulf coast storm
reminded me of weeks spent on calm water, and seeing,
no matter where I turned, blue meeting blue, from horizon
to horizon, the sky never broken by bird or cloud, born
anew each day, always looking between, never down.
“Gulf” was published in West Texas Literary Review in March 2017.
The forgotten poem, existing in title only: Yellow.
Which is a bruise at three weeks, or memory’s shade in autumn.
In what black folder does it hide? In which blinding light?
I take comfort in primaries, lose sleep at the edges.
Where fraying begins and annotation dwindles to scrawled lines.
Above the bones and flesh of the Egyptian gods. Above my books.
Within these lost minutes. Those moons, bereaved. The hours.
Desire germinates even after our rainless decades. Yellow, again.
The color of sulfur (the devil’s realm) or the traitor’s door.
Of cowardice and warning. Of aging and decay.
How to recover what’s sifted away, the residue of our loves?
Each day more bits break off, never to be reattached.
But you, I blend with the sky, perfecting trees, the grass.
* * *
“Yellow, Lost” was published in wildness, Issue no. 10, in October 2017. wildness is an imprint of Platypus Press, which published my work Interval’s Night, a mini-digital chapbook, in December 2016 in their 2412 series. If you’re not familiar with wildness, check it out. In fall 2016 Poets & Writers named it in their article Nine New Lit Mags You Need to Read.