His Softness (with recording)

shoes

 

 

His Softness

What name would survive
had you not stepped into the water

that day? Memory assigned
a separate word, another given,

and the face I’d placed with you
appeared in front of me

fifteen years later, in another
setting, miles away

and still breathing. How
may I honor you

if not by name? I recall
the gray ocean and how

umbrellas struggled in
the wind, and reading

in the weekly newspaper
a month after

that you had never emerged.
Now your name still lies there,

somewhere, under the surface,
unattached yet moving with

the current, and I,
no matter how I strain,

can’t grab it. Time after time,
it slips away. Just slips away.

 

.* * *

“His Softness” was published in January 2016 in the inaugural edition of MockingHeart Review.

 

The Three Disappointments of Pedro Arturo

 

The Three Disappointments of Pedro Arturo

The difficulty lies in denying the rest,
pretending the denouement remains unknotted
like that length of rope looped over the branch,
unable to serve its purpose. I regret nothing,
but often wish that I had dangled my feet
in the stream more often and felt the trout
wriggle by in their fluency of motion. Last year
my daughter claimed that as a half-mortal
what pulsed through her heart was not blood
but ichor, the life-force of gods, and when I
stated that her mother was from Muleshoe and
not Olympus, and that I may have been the
product of divine intervention, but was neither
god nor blessed creature, she spat wine in my
face, laughed, grabbed my keys and chugged off
in the cherry-red Karmann Ghia I’d dubbed
La Gloria Roja. I’ve not seen that car again, but
I swear I’ve heard its custom klaxon ah-woo-gah
in strange small towns between train stops
and the lonely fields stretching out into the
blackness like memories losing traction. But
mostly I find myself in this house of books
and empty bottles, maintaining space and time,
herding shadows into their oblong boxes,
contemplating nooses and love, courage and
mortality, and the inability to step up, to swallow
what I most crave and do what must be done.

 

* * *

“The Three Disappointments of Pedro Arturo” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 challenge, and was published in Main Street Rag in October 2017. I was fortunate to have two sponsors for the poem – Clyde Long, who provided three words (denouement, ichor and claxon) and Paul Vaughan, who offered the title. One never knows what will come of these sponsored pieces…

 

Politics

snake

 

Politics

No snakes here,
but a little voice

says the mice
will return,

and which
do you prefer,

the one that
gnaws open

ramen packages
then craps

on your plate
or the one

who takes
its prey

under the house
and swallows

it whole,
leaving

no bones
behind?

 

dc

 

“Politics” first appeared here in January 2017.

Knots

knot

 

Knots

Who you are not seldom rises
beyond midnight’s

sum: one strand thrown over
another, looped through

and pulled taut, achieving
tension and a sour taste

at the back of your throat.
Everyone believes this

doesn’t bleed. I lock the
windows, draw the shades,

twist the cord. Even distracted,
nothing comes undone.

 

modern light MGD©

 

“Knots” first appeared here in June 2016.

 

Untitled from 1988 (with recording)

file2281274629261

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

 

file9071336337066

 

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.

Landscape with Jar

 

 

Landscape with Jar
(after Wallace Stevens)

What vanishes more readily than the breakable
and transparent? Not here, not now, it says,

never voluble in the morning. I have work.
The horizon exists simply in perception.

Try to touch it – the hill meets the sky
only from afar, offering discordance

up close, no measurement possible.
And among the trees and vines, a glimmer

of spite, twisted open. Moving closer, we see
through. We see rocks, a bird. We see air.

 

 

“Landscape with Jar” was first published in Birch Gang Review in July 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.

 

 

Between

between

 

Between

1

Living between, we watch what flows below us shed itself.

And what remains after the drought subsides?

I don’t recall the instance of assignation, of color-imprinted
awareness and stones erupting from the earth,

nor the paper’s texture and the faint odor of chemicals reacting,
but in this moment I embrace bitter coffee, the wrecked-nerve

hammer-strikes pulsing from hip to ankle, squealing brakes
and the rain shallowing morning’s ridge as if to say

enjoy me now
for I may never return
.

2

Faith flickers in the wind, darting among the weeds.

Risen from payment, penalty, punishment, revenge, the word pain
establishes justification where none need exist.

Interpreting light and sound, scent and heat, we converse.

The dog shivers in bed and I lay a towel over her,
affixing content to involuntary movement.

Stepping through space, crossing the stream.

Those things we don’t know.

Three feet below me the snake’s head ripples towards the far side,
a V of turbulence dissecting the calm.

Everything that can be contained contains us as we in turn
envelop one another. I take your hand and press forward.

3

Connected, we part, only to return and part again.

My hand stopped inches away and the diamondback slithered off
under the workbench, seeking peace.

Abandoned skin, abandoned words. Even the cactus grows thirsty.

The paradox of becoming what you are not. Today, sitting hurts
and standing provides little relief.

In one of two halves I find myself. In the other, your laughter rings.

Like rumblings of earthen discontent or the hiss of air
exiting waterless pipes, we emerge, aimless, exhausted.

Inhabiting one world, we seek others.

 

* * *

“Between” appeared in Clade Song, one of my favorite poetry journals, in August 2016. 

 

 

What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento)

balance

 

What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes (Cento) 

As if what we wanted
were not the thing
that falls,

as what was given
to answer ourselves with – air

moving, a stone
on a stone,
something balanced momentarily.

Or wheels turning,
spinning, spinning.

The waters would suffer
at being waves,
but nothing of their dream
takes place,

nothing that is complete
breathes. But the world
is peopled with objects.

You grow smaller,
smaller, and always
heavier.

You can think of nothing else.

 

Credits:

Jane Hirshfield, Gustaf Sobin, George Oppen, Joy Harjo, Alberto de Lacerda, Jacques Dupin, Francis Ponge, Denise Levertov, Jacques Roubaud.

* * *

“What the Body Gives, Gravity Takes” appeared in Issue Four of Long Exposure, in October 2016.
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