Mirror

image

 

Mirror

The attraction is not
unexpected. We see

what is placed
before us, not

what may be.
The mirror is empty

until approached.

 

* * *

One of six short poems included in my micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls. Available for free download here: http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/236-robert-okaji

image

“Mirror” first appeared here in May 2015.

Hummingbird

file000858060241

Hummingbird

The thought makes
trembling so

incomplete, a consequence
of knowledge attained. I look out

and see leaves flitting in the dusk,
the air closing around them

like the mouth of an old well
swallowing light. Such

hunger we find difficult
to comprehend. The wind shivers

through our lives and repeats itself,
though differently each time.

Every departure is a return.

“Hummingbird” made it’s first appearance on the blog in December 2014. I wrote it in the 1980s, probably between 1987-1989.

IMG_6039

Endurance, 1946

file000428116082

Endurance, 1946

Unaware of the day’s movements, she paints her
reply to the bracelet of light flaring above

the horizon. Tomorrow’s edict is gather,
as in retrieving a sister’s bones in black

rain, reassembling in thought
a smile that could not endure despite

its beauty. I seek a place
of nourishment and find empty bowls.

What is the symbol for peace, for planet?
How do we relinquish the incinerated voice?

Under the vault of ribs lie exiled words, more
bones, and beneath them, relentless darkness.

And whose bodies mingle in this earth?
Whose tongue withers from disuse?

The eight muscles react to separate stimuli,
four to change shape and four to alter position.

Turning, she places the brush on the sill
and opens the window to the breeze.

Exit the light, exit all prayer. Ten strokes
form breath. She does not taste the wind.

Atomic Bomb Dome_03

“Endurance, 1946” first appeared here in January 2015, and was published in Fahmidan Journal in November 2020. Thank you editors Ranna Kisswani and Anthony R. Salandy for taking this piece.

 

A History of Particles: Ash, Wood, Shrimp

image

A History of Particles: Ash, Wood, Shrimp

Unsettled and predisposed
to flight, they
rise. Or, awaiting the process, receive
the glow as prelude to transformation, a

nocturnal exegesis inscribed in flame
and black swirls. Death in the air,
settling upon us. The bitterest
taste. But how to explain

the tongue’s sweet tremor? And the narrow
margins between the transition

from wood to smoke?
At 250 degrees
their pale shells redden,

become vessels of radiant
heat and its attenuated function,
moisture retained so as

to delay and heighten the
delectable flesh, once freed, become
virtue, become fate

sliding down the throat,
the course of deterioration hastened
and endured in perpetuity.

image

This first appeared on the blog in June 2015.

Meditation in White

lily

 

Meditation in White (Lilies)

Clouds pass my high window quickly, abandoning the blue.
Indefinite mass, indeterminate, impersonal

as only intimates may know.
Though you lay there, nothing remained in the bed.

Which is the blank page’s gift, the monotone
or a suggestion of mist and stripped bones.

The nurse marked the passage with pen on paper.
Renewal, departure. A rising.

I accept the ash of suffering
as I accept our destination, the morning

and its offerings, with you in synthesis,
complete and empty, shaded in contrast,

wilting, as another opens. Laughter eases the way.

 

***

page

 

This was first published in Shadowtrain, and made its first appearance here in March 2016.

Apricot House (after Wang Wei)

file000532973761

 

Apricot House (after Wang Wei)

We cut the finest apricot for roof beams
and braided fragrant grasses over them.

I wonder if clouds might form there
and rain upon this world?

 

The transliteration on Chinese-poems.com reads:

Fine apricot cut for roofbeam
Fragrant cogongrass tie for eaves
Not know ridgepole in cloud
Go make people among rain

Each adaptation poses its challenges, and this one was certainly no exception.
First I identified key words and determined how or whether to use them.
Apricot, roofbeam, cogongrass, eaves, ridgepole, cloud, people, rain.

Apricot was a given. It offered specificity, and feels lovely in the mouth. Roof beams, as well. Cogongrass didn’t make the cut. It is indeed used for thatched roofs in southeast Asia, but it felt clumsy; in this case, the specificity it lent detracted from my reading. And rather than use “thatched” I chose “braided” to imply the layered effect of thatching, and to imply movement, to mesh with and support the idea of clouds forming and drifting under the roof. “Not know” posed a question: did it mean ignorance or simply being unaware, or perhaps a state of wonderment? I first employed “unaware” but thought it took the poem in a different direction than Wang Wei intended (but who knows?). “Ridgepole” seemed unnecessary. So I chose to let the reader follow the unsaid – using “form there” to reinforce the impression already shaped by the roof beams and the grasses “over them.” I admit to some trepidation over the second couplet. It may still need work.

 

clouds

“Apricot House” first appeared here in December 2014.

 

Aubade (Inca Dove)

file0002005846098

Aubade (Inca Dove)

Such delicacy
evokes the evolution of hand
and wing, a growth

reflecting all we’ve come
to know. Two doves

sit on the fence, cold wind ruffling
their feathers. What brings them
to this place of no

shelter, of wind and rain
and clarity defied? Fingers

often remember what the mind
cannot. Silence
complicates our mornings.

This was originally published in The Balcones Review in 1987. Seems I was enthralled with birds back then, too…

FenceDrama1

Light and Dark and Light Again (crawlspace)

file4271292370187

 

Light and Dark and Light Again (crawlspace)

Not hopeless, but without hope. If I could
capture my shadow, would I
imprison it in a cell of light

or release it to roam free among the dense cedars,
knowing always that I might betray myself again?
And other repetitions. Doorways beyond other

doorways leading to more openings, like
mouths releasing words in the random
silence, awaiting their return.

What lives under the house but another
darkness, another tale of contrast

and spent energies? Answers move swiftly
from point to point, refusing to be
pinned down. The questions remain.

 

file7821348193641

This first appeared here in February 2015.

Night Smoke

DSC_0206


Night Smoke

Incomplete, it rises
only to dissipate

like the griefs we shape,
somehow unnoticed,

beyond reach but felt.
Last night’s moon, the glance.

Forgotten stars, a withheld
kiss, words we never formed.

How difficult to be lost.
So easy to remain unseen.

 



* * *

“Night Smoke” last appeared here in February 2019.

DSC_0094

Mockingbird III

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Mockingbird III

Songs, returned
to their space

within the sphere of
movement, the patterns inscribed
as if to touch the face of every

wind: here one moment, then
gone. This quickness delights us.
How, then, do we so often forget

those things we share? Night
comes and goes to another’s
phrase, yet each note is so precisely

placed, so carefully rendered
that we hear only the voice, not its source.

 

* * *

Another piece from the 80s. This first appeared here in March 2015, and would likely be a much longer poem if I were to write it today.

 

20131129_140442