How to Write a Poem (with recording)

 

How to Write a Poem

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.

 

* * *

“How to Write a Poem,” is included in Indra’s Net: An International Anthology of Poetry in Aid of The Book Bus, and has appeared on the blog as well.

All profits from this anthology published by Bennison Books will go to The Book Bus, a charity which aims to improve child literacy rates in Africa, Asia and South America by providing children with books and the inspiration to read them.

Available at Amazon (UK) and Amazon (US)

Setting Fire to the Rose Garden

flame

 

Setting Fire to the Rose Garden

Each flower is a gift, a testament to
another morning’s arrival.
I watch you tend the firestar, its
mango-colored petals flirting with

the fire ’n’ ice’s elegant
red, accepting the pink indictment
of the flaming peace, and the
scarlet fireglow’s blush. You are like

a new sunlight crossing the day,
yet when I wave, a cloud passes over
you. Flames differ in this regard,
knowing they exist only as the product

of heat, oxidation and combustible
material, yet sharing their brief lives
with all who care to notice. I inhale
your dark thoughts, holding them

within, but later assemble my own
bouquet — wood chips and diesel
fuel, ground spinners, snakes,
strobes, rockets, candles, shells,

repeaters and a spark timer — and
plant it fondly in the garden. Oh,
how they’ll blossom before dawn’s
first touch. How they will shine.

 

roses

 

“Setting Fire to the Rose Garden” was drafted during the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge, and was subsequently published in The Paragon Journal’s [Insert Yourself Here]: an Anthology of Contemporary Poetry

 

Poems for Peace Reading on Friday, April 12 in San Antonio

You are invited to a reading of

The Larger Geometry: poems for peace

Featuring

Jim LaVilla-Havelin, Patricia Spears Bigelow, Jeanie Sanders, Rachel Clark, Michael Vecchio, Robert Okaji, d. ellis phelps, and Rebecca Raphael

With Brianna Martinez on flute!

Friday, April 12, 2019 P.M. at The Twig Book Shop, 306 Pearl Parkway #106, San Antonio

Free & open to the public.

I’m delighted to be reading at my favorite San Antonio bookshop in the company of good friends and friends-to-be!

 

 

Rain Forest Bridge

bridge

Rain Forest Bridge

To cross
you must first
trust the strands

to hold.
The second tentative
step precedes
the next,

each successive one
gaining strength:
here to

there, now
to then, a summoning of
entreaties
within
one’s faith.

Vapor meets cooler air,
forming droplets,
clouding the far side.

I have feared endings
and the strictures of the unseen,

but here
in this vast
swaying,
I know

one line
bisects the void.

* * *

“Rain Forest Bridge” first appeared in Four Ties Lit Review in August, 2014.

A recording of it may be found on the Four Ties site.

rope

Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

glacier

Your Armpits Smell Like Heaven

But your breath could melt a glacier at three
miles, she says, and then we might consider
the dirt under your nails, the way you slur
your sibilants, and how you seldom see

the cracked eggs in a carton, a downed tree
branch in front of you, the ripened blister
of paint in the bedroom, or your sister
lying drunk on the floor in her own pee.

Back to your armpits. Do you realize
we could bottle that aroma and make
a fortune? I inhale it and forgive

your many faults. The odor provokes sighs
and tingles, blushes I could never fake.
Ain’t love grand? Elevate those arms. Let’s live!

 

 

Never in my wildest dreams did I envision writing a poem about armpits. But the August 2015 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and Plain Jane, the title sponsor, provided that opportunity. This first appeared here in April 2016, and was subsequently published in Algebra of Owls. Many thanks to editor Paul Vaughan for taking it.

armpits

Agave

photo(2)

Agave

It might deceive.
Or like a cruel

window, live its life
unopened,

offering a view
yet reserving the taste

for another’s
tongue, ignoring

even the wind.
The roots, as always, look down.

* * *

This first appeared in Ijagun Poetry Journal in December 2013, was featured in poems2go in April 2016, and is also included in my micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls, available for download from the Origami Poems Project: http://www.origamipoems.com/poets/236-robert-okaji

image