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.

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…

The Question is Never

 

The Question is Never

Who will lock the door
or leap in front of the jacketed

bullet. Nor is it four words
born in lust and camouflaged

with piety. No one cares
if you blink or continue

breathing. No one knows
what you think. Nothing

matters. Not the pen
in her hand or your finger

on the trigger. Not the crying
and the dead and the stains

in the hallway, the man
in the street hiding behind

himself. The question
is no question, but an answer

struggling to emerge. Never
formed, never truly complete.

 

“The Question is Never” first appeared on Vox Populi in June 2018.

 

 

 

After Reading That Dogs Relieve Themselves in Alignment with the Earth’s Magnetic Field, I Observe and Take Notes

  

 

After Reading That Dogs Relieve Themselves in Alignment with the Earth’s Magnetic Field, I Observe and Take Notes

Perhaps Ozymandias is an anomaly. He shows no
preference for the north-south axis while pooping,
and may hedge his bets slightly to the east when
urinating, especially at twilight. Clara the miniature
Schnauzer, ever Germanic in her manner, preferred
true north, always, while blind, deaf, humpbacked
Maury pointed his rear right leg forward, to the south.
Jackboy the cattledog was an omnidirectional reliever,
as is the Chihuahua, Apollonia, although she twists and
snaps at blinking fireflies in mid-squat, never connecting
with the dancing, lighted beetles. I do not recall the
bulldog’s habits, but Scotch trended towards the untidy
in all else, and expended as little energy as possible,
often leaning against the house while peeing on it. I
cannot say which direction my next scientific inquiry
will take, but I will, as always, follow the dogs’ lead.

 

 

This poem last appeared here in December 2017, and was written during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. Many thanks to Susan Nefzger for sponsoring the poem. She is NOT to blame for the title or the contents of the poem…

 

 

Waiting for the Shakuhachi, I Practice with What I Have

 

Waiting for the Shakuhachi, I Practice with What I Have

The tone feels round on shorter bottles,
which more closely resemble my shape.
Longnecks pitch lower, while the emptied
pinot requires more controlled air flow.
My grooved fingers fumble in their
search for meaning. I know this silence,
but that one requires more study.

Cool air stumbles in
through the trees.
Ah, autumn’s return.

 

This first appeared on The Zen SpaceThank you, Marie Marshall, for publishing my work!

 

Scarecrow Takes a Holiday

 

Scarecrow Takes a Holiday

Having neither organs nor neural impulses,
I no longer ask why or how I hear and smell,
taste and see, feel. This morning I woke
to magpie song and onion breeze, in
a body not mine, yet mine, at peace
on Jeju Island, far from my crows, yet
still among friends singing the same
language. I know this: home lives
within, and no matter where we travel,
it rides with us. Like the man who
spoke to me, bald, bearded, a pale
foreigner in this land, comfortable
here, at home. He listened for my reply,
but unfortunately I’d not been given
a mouth, and my words dropped to the
ground and were rolled away by
beetles before he noticed them.
Perhaps I should have written a note,
but he wished to gamble and how
could I refuse? I am hollow, but not
empty, whole, yet not complete,
away but here. He took a coin
from his pocket, flipped it. I saw…

 

A response to Daniel Paul Marshall’s “Scarecrow Travels (after Robert Okaji)”

This first appeared in May 2017.

Ghazal to the Night

 

Ghazal to the Night

The sun carries this river to the night.
Balmless flesh, lies. A letter to the night.

What folly, your mineral dream of power.
I inhale your bones, oh smoky altar to the night.

A stump is neither owl nor island, lifeboat
nor storm. This resin, a gift of myrhh to the night.

My email disappeared to emerge a year later.
Why? Remember what we were to the night.

Hey, winged smile, describe yourself in colors!
Empty your veins and pockets, donor to the night.

This cup, that glass. The song of empty bottles.
Casting off, Bob hands his anchor to the night.

 

* * *

“Ghazal to the Night” first appeared in Eclectica in July 2018. I am extremely grateful to editor Jen Finstrom for publishing my poetry over the years.

I enjoy working with this form. It’s a bit challenging, but ultimately rewarding. For a little information on ghazals, you might read this article at poets.org. Superb examples abound in Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English, edited by Agha Shahid Ali. The introduction alone is worth the cover price.