A Brief History of Babel

image

 

A Brief History of Babel


Borders, windows.
Sound.

Trudging up the steps, I am winded after six flights,
my words smothered in the breathing.

The Gate of God proffers no favors.
When the spirit gives me utterance, what shall I say?

Curiously, no direct link exists between Babel and babble.

A collective aphasia could explain the disruption. One’s
inability to mouth the proper word, another’s
fluency impeded by context.

A stairway terminating in clouds.

Syllable by twisted syllable, dispersed.

Separated in symbols.
And then,
writing.

To see the sunrise from behind a tree, you must face
east: higashi, or, a discrete way of seeing
the structure of language unfold.
Two characters, layered. One
thought. Direction.
Connotation. The sun’s
ascent viewed through branches
as through the frame
of a glassless
window.

Complexity in simplicity.
Or the opposite.

I have no desire to touch heaven, but my tongues reach where they will.

Who can know what we say to God, but God?

And the breeze winding through, carrying fragments.

 

* * *

 

My poem, “A Brief History of Babel,” was drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was subsequently published at Bonnie McClellan’s International Poetry Monthcelebration in February 2017.

 

 

We Call the Neighbor’s Fat Burro Donkey Hotei, but His Name is Cantinflas

file000560125690

We Call the Neighbor’s Fat Burro Donkey Hotei, but His Name is Cantinflas

Certainty grows in corners, away from light.
From his mouth issues the breath we take, the words we keep.

Enjoy the collusion of shape and sound.
We share the hummingbird’s taste for sweet, but not its fierceness.

Its heart beats 1,200 times a minute,
and you ask me how best to bury money.

Hotei’s name means cloth sack, and comes from the bag he carried;
a man of loving character, he possessed the Buddha nature.

What we own cannot be held.
Most plastics are organic polymers with spine-linked repeat units.

The space you’ve left expands exponentially.
Left in the rain, the bell grows.

Christen me at your own peril. Agaves flower once then die.
Fluency in silence.

I dropped my pants when the scorpion stung my thigh.
The wind takes nothing it does not want.

After vulcanization, thermosets remain solid.
The Cantinflas character was famous for his eloquent nonsense.

Vacuum wrap the bills in plastic, place them in pvc.
Having mastered imperfection, I turn to folly.

Not the thing itself, but the process laid bare and opened.
Hoping to hide, the scorpion scuttled under a boot.

Thought to action, whisper to knife: which is not a curse?
The wind wants nothing; the burro sings his loneliness.

 

This first appeared here in May 2015. My failures often lead to success. I’ve never quite completed this piece, and don’t know that I ever will. But the first draft (nearly five years ago) set me off on a new path, one that has served me well. What more can I ask?
 
 
file2751313196905

 

 

First-Prize Winner, “A Further Response From the Hornet’s Nest,” by Robert Okaji

Hey, that’s me! Click on the link to see a video from the shack.

panoply, a literary zine

A luscious glimpse of the untamed. Congratulations to Robert Okaji for this wonderful piece.

Even the sturdiest door unhinges
at the slenderest idea of your approach,
and I, fascinated with locks and
the mechanisms of biological
pumps, with spiders and the inhabited
self, can’t help but wonder
what I might hear in your heartbeat,
whether forests or a distant surf
would whisper at my resolve, too
late, too late, old man, or simply
laugh at this awkward attempt
to merge and taste the benefits
of your strong limbs and foliage,
your precious resources, your salt.

Robert OkajiThe author of five chapbook collections, three micro-chapbooks and a mini-digital chapbook, Robert Okaji lives in Texas with his wife, two dogs and some books. His work has also appeared in such publications as MockingHeart Review, Crannóg, Reservoir, Vox Populi, Eclectica, Boston Review, The High Window, Oxidant|Engine and…

View original post 1 more word

Shakuhachi Blues

 

Shakuhachi Blues

That waver,
like the end of a long

dream flickering to wakefulness,
or an origami crane

unfolding between whiskey
poured and the tale of deceit

and a good woman done wrong.
Air flutters through this bamboo

tube, and it seems I control
nothing. Inhaling, I try again.

 

A simple instrument that will take a lifetime to learn…

Forgetting Charm (with recording)

 

Forgetting Charm

Even your bones remember what you’ve long discarded.

This field of stone grows beyond sight.

In our house the tang of burnt sugars.

You say I love you in four languages I do not speak,
but never in the one I claim.

We light fires with stolen paper.

Douse them with stored rain.

Fragmented memories fill our cupboards.

Did I once know you?

Take these words from me.
Bury them in daylight.

* * *

“Forgetting Charm” was published in The Icarus Anthologyin August 2017.

Music: “Crypto” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licen

 

 

Bamboo

 

Bamboo

the ringing in
one’s ear is
not desire but

language the song
of another mouth
moving in a

different wind the
music is nothing
it is all

and has no
substance but that
shaped inside beyond

thought like growth
in a seed
there simply there

* * *

Something written in the 80s. My, how time has flown…

Flux

Flux

by Stephanie L. Harper and Robert Okaji

I remember what I cannot say
in the moment before
I somehow say something else,
instead,

but like a river reversing course
seeps its brackish warmth
into crisp mountain runoff channels,

my backdraft, too,
threatens
to stifle the resident cutthroats
along with their prey.

Nothing will remain safe for long
from the toxic sediments I bear
upstream, resisting

the current’s translucent
promise to rush me past the crest
of undulant reeds between
the salt marsh and open sea;

for no twist in the shoreline,
nor cloudburst’s surge could un-speak
the daylight

from its collapse
into the ocean’s black throat.

 

“Flux” first appeared on Underfoot Poetry, and is one of several pieces (with more to come) written during the past year in collaboration with Stephanie L. Harper, whose wisdom, patience and good humor enrich my life daily. Thank you, Daniel Paul Marshall and Tim Miller for taking this piece.