Self-Portrait with Knife (with recording)

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Self-Portrait with Knife

Lacking benefit of prayer or belief,
it slips through flesh,

praising its temerity. Or,
parting the onion’s core, reclaims
the right to weep.

How many nights have we shared
these pleasures? I smooth the blade

with steel, listening to the fine hum.

 

 

“Self-Portrait with Knife” is included in my micro-chapbook Only This, available for free download from Origami Poems Project.

 

Patterns

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Patterns

For one who moves in uncertainty, this
flower, the petals of which

gently fade, as if reason
is found in the decline of beauty
and its comforts.

But all you touch remains
touched. If silence reveals the body

of music, what can be said of darkness? Words
appear motionless until they blossom, a
pattern seldom seen yet carried to us in

all manner of conveyance. Listen,
for there is no purer voice.

Let the earth speak.

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“Patterns” first appeared here in March, 2015. I wrote it 30-some years ago, placed it in a folder and promptly forgot it.

Japanese Gardens

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Japanese Gardens

how natural the
lines falling so
purely as if

with a single
stroke we walk
through the opening

and see space
the white center
composed of sand

and gravel later
a gate opens
to another garden

its lantern and
stone so carelessly
arranged so deliberate

 

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“Japanese Gardens” first appeared here in January 2015.

 

Giving Time

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Giving Time

The supplicant’s desire:

mornings sliced into perfect pieces, afternoons
dipped in honey, evenings freed.

A gift of absence.

To gather and bear, shaping
the resultant minutes,

she takes yeast from the air, adds
flour, water and salt.

Matched with the ripening

hour and the sweetened bitter taste,
I recall how blood
seeped through the towel, and

observe on the table the
cheese, plums, the harvested day.

 

 

* * *

This originally appeared on Bonnie Mcclellan’s International Poetry Month website. A recording is also available there: https://bonniemcclellan.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/giving-time-by-robert-okaji/

 

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Even the Sotol Believes

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Even the Sotol Believes

If we must discuss logographic systems, let us begin with fish.
And how might one mistake an entrance for a perch?

A movable rod for a desert spoon?

Today’s lesson excludes a poorly rendered door.

Hinges are merely mechanical joints, the origin of which means to hang. Concentrate there.

D is the tenth most frequently used letter in English.

Depicted on rock wall paintings, the sotol has provided food, sandals,

blankets, ropes, tools and spirits for millennia.
Slow cook the roots for three nights, crush, then ferment for seventy-two hours in

champagne yeast. Distill, then age in French oak.

We shall neither open nor close, nor mention those things that do.

Like bivalves. Bottles. Eyes. Shops. Caskets. Books. Mouths. Circuits.
Its flower stalk rises up to fifteen feet. Its leaves are long, thin and barbed.

Surrounded by orange ochre flames and black smoke, the sotol spirit appears.

Dalet will not enter our vocabulary today.

 

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Originally published in Otoliths 41 (October 2013), and most recently posted here in June 2018.

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

 

Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl

Who do you think I am, what will
grace serve, where in this moonless
void might you lie, can we echo
through the hours and never attach
ourselves to one discernable tree?
Is query my only song? Is sadness
yours? Wrapped around these
priceless silhouettes, our voices
merge downhill near the creek’s
rustle, below the seeping clouds
and stars yet somehow above the
night and tomorrow’s slow ascent
into more questions, more doubt.

 

* * *

“Self-Portrait as Hoot Owl” first appeared in Issue 125 of Right Hand PointingThank you to editors Dale Wisely, Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp and José Angel Araguz for taking this piece.

 

Recording of “The Loneliness of the Last”

The Loneliness of the Last

Always exposed, never sharing the comfort
of between, you see only the departed

diminishing with each second’s passage, blurring,
shrinking, and finally blinking out, all points

erased in the null, an eye closing in the tunnel.
Or, inhaling the fragrance of an unseen orange

grove filtered through coal and thick, black
coils, you accept the limits of possibility,

known only by edges flowing past, lost
to touch and forever beyond reach in the draft

of the inadmissible. Departure defines
you. What lies ahead is not yours to embrace.

* * *

“The Loneliness of the Last” was published as a mini-broadside by ELJ Editions in February 2017.

Loneliness

“Trem Abandonado” by Rafael Vianna Croffi
(https://www.flickr.com/photos/rvc/29472173566)

 

The Draft (with recording)

 

The Draft

All memories ignite, he says, recalling
the odor of accelerants and charred

friends. Yesterday I walked to the sea
and looking into its deep crush

sensed something unseen washing
out, between tides and a shell-cut foot,

sand and the gull’s drift, or the early names
I assign to faces. This is not sadness.

Somewhere the called numbers meet.

 

* * *

“The Draft” first appeared in Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art.

Osso Buco

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Osso Buco

The reconciled, the residue of one’s
virtues displayed or absorbed

that within become the basis for
talk: furtive movements, the knife’s

gentle persuasion, wine
afforded the quality of enhancement.

We must preserve the truth, and other
disingenuous phrases, as if we may

admit our tastes only at great cost
to our politics and sense of being.

And fruitful loss – the reduction
sauce, or stock evaporated – which

attaches in dissipation
the grace of subtlety. To be more

with less. To be apparent yet
concealed. To be, in turn, aware.

 

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“Osso Buco” first appeared here in March 2015.

 

Scarecrow Pretends

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Scarecrow Pretends

How may I claim another’s earth for myself? My perpetual
stance invites occlusion of the senses and a certain disregard
for dignity; I flap in the breeze and bits of me scatter across
the fields. Sze asks if we know a bird’s name in ten
languages do we know any more about the bird. I say no,
but I am a species of stitched remnants and expectation,
a race of one. Genderless, my hollow name holds no secrets,
no history. If I called myself Hudson would anyone recognize
my stuffing for what it is not? What flows through my clothing
but rags, straw, the useless and unwanted. Insects and their feces.
The unearned, the unwarranted. The underclass. Folly. Design.
Gift by delusion. Does attracting more crows than I deter negate
my existence? And which am I? A river? A man? An effigy, one
perception, or another? I do not frighten, but welcome. Speak
louder, that we may ignore our insignificance, our true names.

 

 

 

“Scarecrow Pretends” was published in The Slag Review in January 2017, and a few months later was mentioned in an article in the Long River Review’s blog: “Scarecrow Pretends: Robert Okaji’s Metallurgy.