Untitled from 1988 (with recording)

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This first appeared in 1988, in Aileron. At the time I was experimenting with movement and breath and line, and wrote quite a few of these meditations in this form, some more successful than others.

* * *

where breath begins
it ends consider
light its secret

structure the sense
of limit defined
if a hand

recalls what the
eye cannot which
is the source

of remembrance one
touches more deeply
or allows itself

to be touched
a difference only
in the approach

 

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Mirror

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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

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“Mirror” first appeared here in May 2015.

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.

 

 

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

 

Self-Portrait as Circle

 

 

Self-Portrait as Circle

Ever-bounded, I express myself in
limitation, in one-dimensional
anxiety looped around the blank
self which is not me; unfilled,
or forever open, intuiting the history
of resemblance in tree stumps,
in concentric pond ripples and
entrance wounds at the instant
of penetration. Or, closed, as
barrier to all extending beyond
my linear border, I accept this
trait, knowing that even as I
surround this empty field, the
center is never mine to hold.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Circle” first appeared in  ISACOUSTIC in October 2019. Many thanks to editor Barton Smock for his tireless efforts to promote poetry and poets.

 

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.

 

The Bitter Celebrates

 

The Bitter Celebrates

Mention gateways and mythologies
and I see openings to paths
better left unseen. No choice is

choice,
but preparation leads us astray as well.
Take this bitter leaf.
Call it arugula.
Call it rocket.
Call it colewort or weed.
Dress it with oil and vinegar,
with garlic and lemon.
Add tomato, salt.

Though you try to conceal it,
the bitterness remains.

But back to gates and myths. Do they truly
lead us out, or do we
circle back, returning
to the same endings
again
and again.

Remove the snake, rodents return.

Seal the hole.
Take this leaf.
Voice those words.
Close that door.

 

“The Bitter Celebrates” first appeared in Amethyst Review in December 2018.

 

Apricot Wood (with recording)

clouds

 

 

Apricot Wood

I built a frame of apricot
wood. This was for you. The clouds float
through it even as I sleep. You wrote
once of wild herbs gathered and brought
to a lovely girl, an offering not
of passion but of some remote
desire to hear a word from the throat
of the Lord Within Clouds. I thought
of this as I chiseled the wood.
Last night it rained. I listened to
it from my bed by the open
window, hoping that the clouds would
not leave. This morning two birds flew
by. It is raining again.

 

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Originally penned in the 1980s, “Apricot Wood,” is included in my 2015 chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform. It was first published in 1986, in SPSM&H, a publication devoted to sonnets, and was featured on Autumn Sky Poetry Daily in March 2015. It’s interesting to look at my writing from this period. Some pieces seem to have been written by a stranger, long ago and far, far away. This one somehow seems closer. 

 

 

Fossil Egg

 

Fossil Egg
The secrets that contain you.

Like what fills
the center of the fossil egg,

a never-developed
word or the crimson bud wormed black.

Repetition lends force to lies but can’t create truth.
The halogen bulb remains dark without electricity
even in the light of day.

But how to enter that space?

The yolk hardened to stone.
A man’s forgotten name.
The unmentioned flower.

Every day looming in possibility.

***

Fossil Egg first appeared in September 2019 at Recenter Press. Many thanks to the editors for taking these pieces.