My poem “Even at Night” is up at The 13 Alphabet. Thank you to editor S.H. Shaan.
A Herd of Watermelon
My work tools include rubber boots, a hydraulic
jack and snake tongs. Prevention over cure, always.
A helicopter’s shadow crosses the yard.
I sweat in cold weather; today even the shade burns.
Ants swarm a dead bat on the gravel.
No keys for these locks, no fire for that place.
Stepping inside, the city welcomes me.
We drain coffers for this grass, and hope for rain.
This morning two deer jumped the east fence while I
updated software. The significance eludes us.
A dream of watermelons rising from their viny beds,
lumbering through the field to the creek. Rebellion!
How many have sat at this desk before me, plotting
murders and rumors or rhymes. Die, mosquito. Die!
“A Herd of Watermelon” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. Thank you to Plain Jane for sponsoring the poem and providing the title.
I offer nothing in return, and in offering, receive.
My mouth is a river
whose current bears no words,
but the silence is not of my making.
Notice the streets and their grey
hunger, the rain and the sun
passing by much
as one passes an unopened door.
That question, unvoiced.
That shiver preceding the icy touch.
You may deny my motives.
You may deny my existence and
the very notion of shape unto form.
I offer nothing, and in offering, receive.
“Bandera” first appeared here in May 2015, and was subsequently published in The Basil O’Flaherty in November 2016.
Palinode (Texas, cedar, misery)
More than repression, more than fate and the captive idiom. More
than denial. More than the juniper’s red wind, the grackles’ flocked
effervescence. More. My friend lives on clay and I, on stone. How
to express stability’s process, the jurisdiction of pollen? The warbler
suffers no choice but that of extinction; it requires. It breathes. It
feeds, it sings and yet we come to excision. Destruction, with no
thought to consequence. Wet clay expands. Stone is constant.
Stone is constant but harbors no thought to permanence. We are
its mineral, pressing for wisdom and the eternal: to gain entrance.
Look closely. The juniper berry is a cone whose scales have merged.
I seek space and find habitat bounded in half-truths and careless
talk as the north wind broadcasts microspores throughout my
neighborhood. Inhale and know the power of propagation. Helpless
in its path, we think only to escape.
We think only to escape and instead wear misery in the attempt.
Crusted eyes, raw throats. Diminished patience. Our neighbor
chain-sawed his female cedar years ago, but his discomfort continued
unabated. The Juniper Hairstreak butterfly overwinters as a chrysalis.
Golden Cheek Warblers nest among its limbs. I flavor food with its
berries, relish the shade in July, the fragrance, year-round. Celebrating
coexistence, we sneeze. My saw lies still.
beset upon the calm.
lines the road’s
bed, and we see
no means to pass.
you break what falls.
* * *
This first appeared in Ijagun Poetry Journal in December 2013, and is also included in my micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls, available (free of charge) for download from the Origami Poems Project: http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/236-robert-okaji
The Three Disappointments of Pedro Arturo
The difficulty lies in denying the rest,
pretending the denouement remains unknotted
like that length of rope looped over the branch,
unable to serve its purpose. I regret nothing,
but wish that perhaps I had dangled my feet
in the stream more often and felt the trout
wriggle by in their fluency of motion. Last year
my daughter claimed that as a half-mortal
what pulsed through her heart was not blood
but ichor, the life-force of gods, and when I
stated that her mother was from Muleshoe and
not Olympus, and that I may have been the
product of divine intervention, but was neither
god nor blessed creature, she spat wine in my
face, laughed, grabbed my keys and chugged off
in the cherry-red Karmann Ghia I’d dubbed
La Gloria Roja. I’ve not seen that car again, but
I swear I’ve heard its custom klaxon ah-woo-gah
in strange small towns between train stops
and the lonely fields stretching out into the
blackness like memories losing traction. But
mostly I find myself in this house of books
and empty bottles, maintaining space and time,
herding shadows into their oblong boxes,
contemplating nooses and love, courage and
mortality, and the inability to step up, to swallow
what I most crave and do what must be done.
* * *
“The Three Disappointments of Pedro Arturo” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was published in Main Street Rag in October 2017. I was fortunate to have two sponsors for the poem – Clyde Long, who provided three words (denouement, ichor and claxon) and Paul Vaughan, who offered the title. One never knows what will come of these sponsored pieces…
Sitting at this desk, I wonder
whose words will emerge
from the stained wood,
its whorls and cracked surface
detailing a specific language
of the inert and precious.
Earlier I rapped the cistern
to verify water level,
and a week ago startled
a cottonmouth sunning its lengthy
self at the crossing. The door
just blew open, perhaps,
or a ghost wished to offer its
voice, neither malice
nor approval imbedded
in the gesture. History
shadows me despite my best
efforts. I walk, drink water,
write, think of friends left
behind or gone ahead,
reading between the grains
and dark spaces, looking for rain
in the blue, for light and benediction
and the secret poetry of furniture.