Requiem II (with recording)

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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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“Bittersweet” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

In Praise of Chiggers

In Praise of Chiggers

And the others
feasting unseen
upon you,
offering their
blessings
of digestive juices
and anticoagulants,
allergic reactions and
reddened mounds
made pleasurable
by your fingernails
scraping the skin
around them, over
and raw, again,
again, it feels
so good!

“In Praise of Chiggers” first appeared here in August, 2017.

Japanese Gardens

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Japanese Gardens

how natural the
lines falling so
purely as if

with a single
stroke we walk
through the opening

and see space
the white center
composed of sand

and gravel later
a gate opens
to another garden

its lantern and
stone so carelessly
arranged so deliberate

 

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“Japanese Gardens” first appeared here in January 2015.

 

Home: Living Between

 

Home: Living Between

My younger self dwelled in shadows propelled by light.
Indigo to ebony, in variant shades.

Concealed in language and skin, surrounded by shelved words.
Departed friends. Grass grown tall or baked to a brittle yellow.

The central order of a life arranged in sequence, orbiting through mother,
father, sister and passers-by glancing through our windows.

A parachute of discomfort billowing in the blue.
Distance and uncertainty beyond the nuclear family.

Acknowledging the new, still I looked inward.
The house as structure, as symbol, but always impermanent, unattainable.

Not rejection, but a liminal sense of being, of place.
Faces changed, but books carried me from city to state to country.

Translated from three views and speaking in brushstrokes across the wall,
slowly filled from edge to center, layer upon layer.

Containment, conjunction, circumstance. Triangle to circle.
No headstones mark my locus, no place bears my name.

Borders, the threshold of shared lives.

 

 

* * *

“Home: Living Between” was originally published at Allegro Poetry Magazine.  Thank you, Sally Long, for taking this poem.

 

 

 

Giving Time

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Giving Time

The supplicant’s desire:

mornings sliced into perfect pieces, afternoons
dipped in honey, evenings freed.

A gift of absence.

To gather and bear, shaping
the resultant minutes,

she takes yeast from the air, adds
flour, water and salt.

Matched with the ripening

hour and the sweetened bitter taste,
I recall how blood
seeped through the towel, and

observe on the table the
cheese, plums, the harvested day.

 

 

* * *

This originally appeared on Bonnie Mcclellan’s International Poetry Month website. A recording is also available there: https://bonniemcclellan.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/giving-time-by-robert-okaji/

 

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Texas Haibun

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Texas Haibun

I dream of poetry in all its forms, rising and flowing and subsiding without end, much like ice shrugging within itself. Last winter a hard freeze split a valve on the downstream side of the cistern. Had it cracked even a few inches up-line there would have been no need to replace the valve.

captive rain recalls
its journey towards the ground
the garden returns

The well terminates at 280 feet. The water is hard, but cool, and tastes of dark limestone and ancient rains.

Even the gnarled live oaks have dropped their leaves. Grass crunches underfoot and smells like dead insects and dried herbs. Mosquitoes have vanished. Only the prickly pears thrive. Their flowers are bright yellow and bloom a few days each year.

sauteed with garlic
nopalitos on my plate
their thorns, forgiven

I wipe sweat from my forehead with the back of the glove, and wonder how many ounces of fluid have passed through my body this year, how the rain navigates from clouds through layers of soil and stone, only to return, how a cold beer might feel sliding down my throat.

stoking the fire
winter rain whispers to me
forget tomorrow

 

* * *

Originally posted in February, 2014, this was my first attempt at a haibun.

 

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Even the Sotol Believes

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Even the Sotol Believes

If we must discuss logographic systems, let us begin with fish.
And how might one mistake an entrance for a perch?

A movable rod for a desert spoon?

Today’s lesson excludes a poorly rendered door.

Hinges are merely mechanical joints, the origin of which means to hang. Concentrate there.

D is the tenth most frequently used letter in English.

Depicted on rock wall paintings, the sotol has provided food, sandals,

blankets, ropes, tools and spirits for millennia.
Slow cook the roots for three nights, crush, then ferment for seventy-two hours in

champagne yeast. Distill, then age in French oak.

We shall neither open nor close, nor mention those things that do.

Like bivalves. Bottles. Eyes. Shops. Caskets. Books. Mouths. Circuits.
Its flower stalk rises up to fifteen feet. Its leaves are long, thin and barbed.

Surrounded by orange ochre flames and black smoke, the sotol spirit appears.

Dalet will not enter our vocabulary today.

 

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Originally published in Otoliths 41 (October 2013), and most recently posted here in June 2018.

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

Who do you think I am, what will
grace serve, where in this moonless
void might you lie, can we echo
through the hours and never attach
ourselves to one discernable tree?
Is query my only song? Is sadness
yours? Wrapped around these
priceless silhouettes, our voices
merge downhill near the creek’s
rustle, below the seeping clouds
and stars yet somehow above the
night and tomorrow’s slow ascent
into more questions, more doubt.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl” first appeared in Issue 125 of Right Hand PointingThank you to editors Dale Wisely, Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp and José Angel Araguz for taking this piece.

 

Yesenin

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Yesenin

Respite, involuntary and gentle
circling one’s
collar, a touch barely felt, renewed.

Or, the other turns,
belying expression and the halted voice.

The recursive window, closing.
A final poem in blood.

And beyond the glass? The face behind
the indifferent mask
designs its own

smile, risking everything
as the chair’s leg tilts,

inertia become constriction,
the taut lapse begun.

* * *

A fascinating poet, Sergei Yesenin died nearly 90 years ago. You might check out his bio on wikipedia.

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Fifty-Word Review: Forth a Raven, by Christina Davis

(Originally appeared in December 2013)

Christina Davis’s Forth a Raven offers stark, textured, intelligent and lyrical pieces in a stripped-down yet ultimately complex, reflective language. Encompassing the tension of different realms – the spiritual and the secular, the extraordinary and the mundane, her work, quite simply, astounds. Read this book. Seek out her work. It’s sublime.

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