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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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.

Every Wind (with recording)


Every Wind

Every wind loses itself,
no matter where

it starts. I want
a little piece of you.

No.

I want your atmosphere
bundled in a small rice paper packet
and labeled with strings of new rain
and stepping stones.

I want
the grace of silence
blowing in through the cracked
window, disturbing only
the shadows.

Everywhere I go, bits of me linger,
searching for you.

Grief ages one thread at a time,

lurking like an odor
among the lost
things,

or your breath,
still out there,

drifting.

 

* * *

Music: “Gymnopedie No. 1” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

 

“Every Wind” first appeared in The Lake in July 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available for order via Amazon.com and Finishing Line Press.

 

 

 

Inscrutable

 

Inscrutable

The river fills her body

like handwriting on a scrap
folded into a book
and found years later.

No one reads that language.

Undiscovered,
she remains closed, cleansed,

awaiting interpretation.

 

 

* * *

“Inscrutable” was first published in Volume 3, Issue 1 of Ink in Thirds. Thank you, Grace Black, for taking this piece!

 

 

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. 

 

 

Scarecrow Calls Out the Man

Scarecrow Calls Out the Man

These things I cannot name: that finger of night
between fear and peace, in which darkness both cloaks
and hugs the wide-eyed. A snake, in the open. And that space
behind the watcher? Perhaps it is easier to call it something
else – a gasp, or the immeasurable measure. A presidential
folly. My friends, ever cautious, swoop in and away, taking
with them only those grains they need, unlike you. What use
is a hoarded larder if it rots? How does one come to want
everything and nothing at the same time? A gilded house
spotlights wealth, not right. Is this edifice your legacy,
your monument to self? The heart monitor’s blip paints one
forever, your pursed lips, another. But even the concrete
you cringe behind lacks permanency; regard your hands
and all they can’t stuff into your pockets. Loosen that
coiled tie lest it choke you. Accept what the mirror sees,
and await karma. Though you will not hear my voice,
I offer this: may the combined weight of your lies and
larcenies, your unpaid debts and power plays, rapes,
casual racism, privilege and coarse, childish taunts, merge
into one fist-size bankroll placed upon your chest, and
fueled by the gravitational forces of forty-four black holes,
slowly, with each turn of the earth’s axis, press down and
down and down in search of that shriveled organ, and finding
it, pluck out and replace it with one resembling that of a
genuine human, one honoring respect and love, empathy
and humility. I am the sum of integrated, discarded
pieces assembled to observe and warn, collecting only
diminishment and the means to become less. Wanting
little, the world welcomes me. It arrives free, honest, on
wings, bringing wealth beyond your reach, your greed.
I own nothing. I know nothing. But this: I name you
Scourge, and laugh at the smallness of you. I name you
Farce. I name you Empty. I name you Gone.

 

* * *

I feel old and tired and angry, unable to speak coherently. So today Scarecrow’s voice will have to do.

“Scarecrow Calls Out the Man” first appeared on Vox Populi in August 2017.

 

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.