Because You Cook

 

Because You Cook

You know the pleasure of
hunger, of patience
and a task well done.

Dice onion, peppers – one hot,
one sweet – saute them in olive oil,

fold them into an egg
cooked flat. Add
crumbled goat cheese, basil.

Look away.
Morning ascends, then declines,
but night drifts in, confident,
ferrying these odors among others.

Accept what comes but choose wisely.
Light the candle. Shift the burden.

 

* * *

“Because You Cook” first appeared in Ristau: A Journal of Being in January 2018. I am grateful to editor Robert L. Penick for taking this piece.

 

Aftermath

 

Aftermath 

   rust. Being one phase of corruption, a matter of
resolve. When I surrender, the implication is of giving
over, moving above, allowance. Delivering despite
the steady flaking away at what colors me intact.
The quiet evening had lulled me to this inevitability:
when oxides subsume the original metal, the expansion
may result in catastrophe. Yesterday’s arc, tomorrow’s
trial. Failure’s bloom.

 

* * *

 

“Aftermath” first appeared in the print publication Sheepshead Review. Thank you to Audrey Schultz and staff for taking this poem.

Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past

 

Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past

Dear Ken: I’m fixated on open faucets and drained tanks,
on cracked PVC and browned grass, denial and what’s to
come, thinking of old dogs and accusations and how
the morning’s lopsided beginning has wrung out every
shred of positive emotion absorbed overnight. Then
a pinpoint emerges, swelling, until I can see, as through
a spidery windshield, tomorrow and its improbabilities.
Last weekend I built a window screen to exact measurements,
only to discover the sill tilted on the north by a quarter-inch,
and in order to install the damned thing I had to shorten
its right side, ruining the rectangle. Perfection eludes me,
even when guided by tape and square, especially in this
climate of exacerbated deterioration, which has not, alas,
excluded me – sciatic nerve, shoulders, knees, hands, etc.
But enough whining. Tea leaves predict that in a few hours
I’ll cross the creek trickling over the road, check the cisterns
and drop off tomorrow’s drinks before heading home to
swat mosquitoes and grill sage-rubbed pork kebabs while
sipping hoppy brews. That’s as far into the future as I
care to venture. The Cowboys drafted a lineman named
Taco, the weeds need mowing and my belly says noon
is fast approaching. I’d like carnitas, but have only rice
and beans, which probably signifies something far deeper
than my conscience will admit, trials I’ll never face. A
thunderstorm looms in the forecast, but my left ankle says
it ain’t happening. What do your mended bones claim?
Mine usually plead the fifth, but hey, they’re careful,
these days, and with good reason. Take care. Bob

 

* * *

“Letter to Gierke from the Future’s Past” was featured at Vox Populi in December 2017.

 

Self-Portrait as Wave

 

Self-Portrait as Wave

Feeling limited, I succumb to surge,
disperse, reassemble, return
in the calming swirl. Nothing
resembles me. I relinquish this piece,
retain that, and reinforced,
reside in the whorl, swollen,
winnowed to a point and capped,
roar and rumble, shredded,
whole yet apart, a solitary
fist crashing through another
watery torso in response, in
resonance, again, again.

 

 

“Self-Portrait as Wave” was first published in the inaugural issue of Kissing Dynamite. Many thanks to editor Christine Taylor for taking this piece.

 

 

Which Poet, Which Beer (2)

pint

Tastes change. In my younger years I preferred sweeter brown ales, eschewed hoppier, bitter beverages, and seldom branched out. Nowadays, I lean heavily towards the bitter, and when the opportunity presents itself, feel compelled to sample the unknown. Thus when I spied Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Jalapeño Imperial IPA on tap, I had no choice but to order a pint. We may not normally place the words Alaska and jalapeño alongside each other, but if this Imperial IPA is any indication, perhaps we should. With an odor of hops and capsicum, it felt smooth on the tongue, a little malty, even earthy. Not  complex at the outset, but subtle, defying definition and developing over time, in the way a good poem develops. My only complaint would be the lack of heat. But hey, I’m from Texas, and we do jalapeños. This is a beer of multiple cultures, a blend of distinct identities. I think of Joan Naviyuk Kane, and her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, in which she writes in “Antistrophic”

Instead of out, I am in,
Trying at the old habit of imperfect definition
As well as the less familiar,
Between falling gold

Kane’s narrative, her mythology and landscape, are not mine, yet they invite me in and envelop my senses, allowing synthesis, acceptance, to occur.

But sometimes I crave the unadorned. The Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellowrose IPA, a single malt, single hop concoction, startled me. Surprisingly mellow in the mouth, it imparts grapefruit and perhaps pineapple with a hint of something I can’t readily identify. Strong yet delicate, infinitely interesting, Yellowrose is most definitely a celebration of simplicity and craft – a few ingredients combined to create magic. Which may also describe Christina Davis’s book An Ethic. Spare in nature, her work transcends the limits of language, the borders of the page. Her poems blossom anew with each reading, and the farther away I move from them, the more I long to return:

”All Those That Wander,” in its entirety:

After the ark survived the Flood,
it was taken apart
to be made into cages.

This is the nature of religion.

Of course my curiosity leads me down other paths, too. Infamous Brewing Company’s Sweep the Leg peanut butter stout pours with a small head, and tastes of rich malts and coffee, with a little cocoa and, of course, subtle peanut tones. An opaque, dark brown or black, with minimal carbonation, exuding stillness, it isn’t quite what I anticipated, with the peanut butter flavor a tad muted. But the mouthfeel is spot on, and the aftertaste lingers, leaving me requesting more of this unlikely combination, and reminding me of Charles Simic’s  Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, in which he imparts, through prose poems, the experience of viewing Cornell’s enigmatic art. Nothing is quite as you expect it should or could be, yet you go on, somehow understanding. He writes in “Secret Toy”:

In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.

Simic offers openings into Cornell’s art, explains the unexplainable without explanation. I stare into the pint of Sweep the Leg, and find my own stillness. I read Simic and find another. This is what I seek in poetry, what I want in good beer. I have found it.

 

blackbeer

“Which Poets, Which Beer (2)” has appeared here several times. You will be relieved to hear that I am still conducting research in these matters.

Bowls, Emptied

bowls

 

Bowls, Emptied

I picture them always separate, unfilled, never nested among the others.

In descending order: yellow, green, red. The missing blue.

Concave, hollow, hemispherical, freed of conscience.

Other images – the skies, denser with age.

You stirring with a wooden spoon, cigarette smoldering nearby.

Or the itinerant smell of new sod and wet soil.

My knee aches whenever I traverse stairs or turn quickly.

Which holds more grief, these vessels or memory’s lapse?

Inverted, their capacity remains constant as the heavens, dark or light.

The paling dome, a memory of freshly pulled onion.

Squatting, you would patiently pluck weeds.

I bite my tongue and kneel to place the flowers.

Near this stone, where the crickets chirr and dew worms burrow.

By this mound and these blades of near-silent grass.

Where I accept this moment’s offering. And you do not.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Bowls, Emptied” first appeared on the blog in January 2016, and was subsequently published in Galway Review in December 2016.

Scarecrow Pretends

scarecrowfield

Scarecrow Pretends

How may I claim another’s earth for myself? My perpetual
stance invites occlusion of the senses and a certain disregard
for dignity; I flap in the breeze and bits of me scatter across
the fields. Sze asks if we know a bird’s name in ten
languages do we know any more about the bird. I say no,
but I am a species of stitched remnants and expectation,
a race of one. Genderless, my hollow name holds no secrets,
no history. If I called myself Hudson would anyone recognize
my stuffing for what it is not? What flows through my clothing
but rags, straw, the useless and unwanted. Insects and their feces.
The unearned, the unwarranted. The underclass. Folly. Design.
Gift by delusion. Does attracting more crows than I deter negate
my existence? And which am I? A river? A man? An effigy, one
perception, or another? I do not frighten, but welcome. Speak
louder, that we may ignore our insignificance, our true names.

 

 

“Scarecrow Pretends” was published in The Slag Review in January 2017, and a few months later was mentioned in an article in the Long River Review’s blog: “Scarecrow Pretends: Robert Okaji’s Metallurgy.