Untitled from 1988

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This was first published in 1988, in Aileron. At the time I was experimenting with movement and breath and line, and wrote quite a few of these meditations in this form, some more successful than others.

where breath begins
it ends consider
light its secret

structure the sense
of limit defined
if a hand

recalls what the
eye cannot which
is the source

of remembrance one
touches more deeply
or allows itself

to be touched
a difference only
in the approach

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Mirror

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Mirror

The attraction is not
unexpected. We see

what is placed
before us, not

what may be.
The mirror is empty

until approached.

One of six short poems included in my micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls. Available for download here: http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/236-robert-okaji

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“Mirror” first appeared here in May 2015.

Requiem II

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Requiem II

To say what becomes: this word
bends in the wind of our

breath. Is this too simple to
say? Our bodies gather yet retain

nothing. Numbers, phrases, the way
the ocean rolls. Once I saw
a whale at dusk. Or rather I saw its

tail part the water and disappear
into darkness, an answer too complex
and sweet for tongues to comprehend.

But waves seldom explain. Imagine
something nearby but beyond reach.

Think of clouds and shrines, consider light.

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“Requiem II” first appeared here in May 2015.

Light and Dark and Light Again (crawlspace)

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Light and Dark and Light Again (crawlspace)

Not hopeless, but without hope. If I could
capture my shadow, would I
imprison it in a cell of light

or release it to roam free among the dense cedars,
knowing always that I might betray myself again?
And other repetitions. Doorways beyond other

doorways leading to more openings, like
mouths releasing words in the random
silence, awaiting their return.

What lives under the house but another
darkness, another tale of contrast

and spent energies? Answers move swiftly
from point to point, refusing to be
pinned down. The questions remain.

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This first appeared here in February 2015.

Palinode (salt, mask, descent)

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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.

 

ascent

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

Scarecrow Dances

 

Scarecrow Dances

A case of the almost
tapping into the deed:

I dance in daylight,
but never on stairs

nor in countable
patterns, the wind

and birds my only
partners. When the

left arm twitches
counter to the right

hand’s frisk, my
head swivels with

the breeze, catching
my feet in pointe,

a moment endured
in humor. Luther

Robinson switched names
with his brother Bill

and became Bojangles,
but my brothers remain

nameless and silent,
flapping without desire

or intent. Why am I
as I am, born of no

mother, stitched and
stuffed, never nurtured

but left to become this
fluttering entity, thinking,

always thinking, whirling,
flowing rhythmically

in sequence, in time
to unheard music?

No one answers me.
But for now, I dance.

 


“Scarecrow Dances” first appeared in The Blue Nib in September 2016.