Thunderstorm Below the Mountain

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Thunderstorm Below the Mountain
(after Hokusai)

Lacking humility, I take without thinking.
How far we’ve come, to look below for
lightning, the valleys shaken
with thunder, answers

like pebbles flung outward,
each to its own arc, separate
yet of one source, shaded into the question.

Is it for the scarcity of reach,
the reverse view through the bamboo rings
well out of sight, that

breath in the wave’s tuck or
smoke mingling with the clouds
and figures collecting salt,

that I edge myself closer, again,
to this place? To be nothing
presumes presence in absence.
Lacking humility, I accept without thinking.

 

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“Thunderstorm Below the Mountain” first appeared here in March 2016.

 

Living in Lines He Carries Nothing

 

Living in Lines He Carries Nothing

The man you knew is fading,
withdrawing into memory’s
specimen jar. A fatal flower. One
dried scorpion. Another late glass
of pinot. He carries nothing with him
but words. Living in lines on the page,
he listens to the sotol stalks rasping
sad farewells at night, their peace
interrupted by cicadas droning in
the trees. He wants to be seen
before he dies. Thinking hurts, he says.
I depend on pain that won’t vanish
or forget its purpose. I do not want.

 

 

 

“Living in Lines He Carries Nothing” was published in fall 2019 in the print anthology Through Layered Limestone: A Texas Hill Country Anthology of Place. I am grateful to editors d. ellis phelps, Lucy Griffith, Darlene Logan, Donna Peacock and Mobi Warren for taking this and three other pieces.

 

 

 

The Garden

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The Garden

But what of this notion
of the romantic?

It rained last night.
I could smell it

before it fell,
each drop a perfect

sphere until the final
moment. This

is fact, impractical but
lovely for its truth.

 

* * *

Initially posted here in January of 2014, the poem was published many years ago (30?) as a poetry postcard offered by the literary journal Amelia. I admit to being wrong about the shape of raindrops. But hey, they start out spherical…

Roof Charm

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Roof Charm

What is home if not exile to the familiar?

A serrated kiss at the closet door.

We duck our heads and cook meals undercover,
the sun’s rays deflected.

And every relentless     day finds
our hands     wanting.

The black shawl, unfolded.
Wax melted on the whetstone.

You say stars shiver despite their light.

You say one hand      mirrors its mate’s      arc.

I say warmth flows through you, the roof     our sky.

 

glare

 

“Roof Charm” made its first appearance here in June 2016.

 

Ikebana

leaf on stone

 

Ikebana (You without You)

Between frames, between presence and negation, authority.

If your body lies in the earth, why are you here?

Limits admired and sought: the way of the flower.

I pluck leaves from the lower half to achieve balance.

Shape and line detach, yet comprise the whole.

My father, awake in his chair, mourns quietly.

A naked twig forms one point of the scalene triangle.

Starkness implies silence, resonates depth.

Heaven, earth, man, sun and moon invoke your absence.

As you trickle through the interval’s night.

 

* * *

Ikebana is the art of Japanese flower arrangement.

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This first appeared on the blog in March 2016, and is included in my mini-digital chapbook, Interval’s Night, published by Platypus Press in December 2016, and available via free download.

 

Palinode (birds)

 

Palinode (birds)

Simplicity, as in the cloaca. One aperture for all: eggs,
urine, sperm, feces. The majority of birds copulate
by joining the openings of their cloacae (most male
birds lack penises). Nothing is for nothing.

Nothing is for nothing, but the ache of emptiness
bestows its own reward. That movement from outer
world to inner, to anima, to breath, to flight,
approaching heaven. Birds know the way.

Knowing the way, birds express our envy of the
boundless, testament to the unity of earth and sky,
instinct’s voice. We see feathers not as epidermal
outgrowths, but as emblems of what we forever seek.

As emblems of what we seek, crows exploit man’s
folly, exposing hidden truths. Thought and memory
recede, leaving us foundered. Altered consciousness,
flight, the space to believe, simplicity’s forms in one.

 

“Palinode (birds)” first appeared in slightly different form in Otoliths in fall 2016.

 

The Sky Refutes East and West

nest

The Sky Refutes East and West

Here, the horizon lingers.
The open eye, the mouth’s shape.

A hoop, the circle without iris.

Does the screech owl acknowledge latitude and hemisphere?

The Semitic alphabet contained no vowels, thus O
emerged as a consonant with a pupil, morphing into a dotted ring,

and later, with the Greeks, an unembellished circle (which of course

they cracked open and placed at the end). The female lays eggs

on the remnants of earlier meals lining the bottom of her den.
If you listen at night you might hear the purring of a feathered

cat (the Texas screech owl’s call varies from that of its eastern cousins).

The difference between sphere and ball.

To pronounce the Phoenician word for eye, sing the lowest note possible,
then drop two octaves. They usually carry prey back to their nests.

Screech owls are limited to the Americas.

Coincidence and error, the circumference of other.

 

***

“The Sky Refutes East and West” was first published in Prime Number Magazine, and also appears in my chapbook The Circumference of Other, included in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (Silver Birch Press, 2015). It made its first appearance here in May 2016.

eastwest

Agave

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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

 

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