Emptying Haibun

 

Emptying Haibun

Waiting, I open myself but nothing enters. Even music’s comfort avoids me, preferring calmer ports or perhaps another’s wind choices. I drop the weighted cord through the flute, pull it, and watch the cloth ease out. Some days pain drags behind me no matter what words emerge, what phrases follow. Last night brought the season’s first fireflies. This wall of books grows taller each day.

exhaling, I note

smudges in the sky —

oh, dirty window

 

Hey, I’ve Won a Chapbook Contest!

 

The Sadness of Old Fences 2

I’m delighted to report that I’ve been named the winner of the 35th Annual Slipstream Poetry Chapbook Contest:
 
Slipstream is pleased to announce that the winner of our 2022 Poetry Chapbook Contest is Robert Okaji for his collection, “Buddha’s Not Talking.” The book will be published in late summer. All entrants in the contest will receive a free copy of the chapbook, along with a copy of the latest issue of Slipstream (Issue #42 Bread/Blood/Beats theme issue.
 
Robert Okaji lives in Indiana with his wife, stepson and cat. He holds a BA in history, served without distinction in the U.S. Navy, toiled as a university administrator, and no longer owns a bookstore. His honors include the 2021 riverSedge Poetry Prize, the 2021 Etchings Press Poetry Chapbook Prize, and the 1968 Bar-K Ranch Goat-Catching Championship.
 
Poet Robert Penick writes: “In an era of ego and agenda-based poetry, Robert Okaji ties us to the moment, the gesture, and the event. What few may understand is how important his commitment is to the truth. Okaji measures speed, spit, and distance, always taking the velocity of time into account before launching an image or forecast. And he never misses his target.”

I’ll post order links when available. Cover art by the inestimable Stephanie L. Harper. Author photo by Matthew Harper. 

Cover Photo

The Geography of Silence

laundry

The Geography of Silence

1. Laundry drooping at midday.

2. She dreams off-key, in pastels.

3. With misunderstanding comes anger.

4. Mata! Mata! Again!

5.  Ashes crossing the ocean.

6.  Sweat, and the taste of separation.

7.  Reaching for past moons, she cries.

8.  Death’s shade.

9.  Rice.

10.  Self-sacrifice, the centered gift.

11. Inward, always. Inward.

telescope map

.

Elegy

 

Elegy  

1. Adrift

I count more graves than people in my sleep,
but nothing turns more quickly

than an empty wind
in a place whose memory has died.

And all manner of departure: What you have left is you
without you
. As if it could be different, as if decades

could withdraw and draft a blueprint of motive and action,
returning them, returning you, to that point

across the sea where the ship has not yet arrived.
If you ask she will say it does not matter. If you ask.

 

2. Parentheses

To be within, yet without, as in the unuttered phrase.

It is time the stone made an effort to flower,

to render the void clear and resolute, the diction of
separation divided by decades and your ocean.

The language of silence, drawn near.

 

3. From the Other Side

Sometime becomes never and steps around a desolate corner,
and all we have left is our field

awash in stone, remnants of the unspoken.
I have no memory of you. Nor you, of me,

but the strands do not lie, and unraveled,
expose the imperfect blends

that compose my love. A leaky roof. The last word.
A pity to put up at all

but there is rain.

 

4. Another Night

Of all the hours which were the longest?
The earth trembled around me

and I lay still, bearing witness to
the uncertain malice of its

shrug, shoulders brought to
fore, then returned,

and finally, released. If,
after this half-century, words

could reform in your mouth,
what denial would issue?

Ashes, washing ashore.

 

5. Bridge

And seeing you only as the shadow of an

ending whose voice lies
in an uncommon past, how
may we recognize the very shape we share?

The bridge’s fate is loneliness,
knowing that one side

decries the other’s
call, that separation affords new light:

they are between
comfort and space, between words and a smile,

between nothingness and sorrow,
two points, beginning and end,

reaching, in opposition, towards each other.

 

 

Notes:

“What you have left is you without you” is from Edmond Jabes’s “At the Threshold of the Book” in The Book of Questions: Volume I, translated by Rosemary Waldrop.

“It is time the stone made an effort to flower” is from Paul Celan’s poem Corona,” included in Poems of Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger.

“A pity to put up at all but there is rain” is from Basho’s Back Roads to Far Towns, translated by Cid Corman and Kamake Susumu.

Albert Huffsticklers poem “Bridges” which appeared in The Balcones Review in 1987, begins “They are between…”

“Elegy” first appeared on Underfoot Poetry in October 2017.

 

Poetry Readings

Airport Reading

Over the past three decades, I’ve participated in public readings in some interesting places: bars, cafes, auditoriums, bookstores, churches, classrooms, in people’s homes, in various arts facilities, on a river bank and, of course, online. But until this week, I’d never read at an airport. Now that was truly different! I am grateful to Brick Street Poetry and Indianapolis Airport Authority for this amazing opportunity.

My Chapbook is on Sale

 

A few days ago I received a notice from Amazon that I might be interested in this book. Well, yeah. Maybe. I wrote the damned thing. I clicked on the link and discovered that it’s on sale for $3.98 (a 60% discount). I have no idea why it’s on sale, but if you have any interest in reading it, now’s a good time to order. Or just use it as a coaster. It’s paper — it absorbs water!