Two Poems Up at Lamplit Underground

 

My poems “The End of Something” and “Poem Ending with a Whimper” have been published in Volume 3 of Lamplit Underground. Thank you, Janna Grace, for taking these pieces.

Lamplit Underground is a beautifully illustrated publication. Please take a look!

 

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.

 

 

 

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

 

image

 

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.

 

 

Inevitable River

 

Inevitable River

Transparent beauty, I adore the way
your mind filters and reconstructs patterns,
waves transcending straight lines through
color-drenched nature and the coming days.

Like a second page cleansed of words,
or a bulldozed path through a mine field,
we start our separate lives together, anew.
Even the winged beings admire us.

Our pasts hover behind,
shadowing our drives through lost towns
and lonesome adolescent dreams,

falling further behind each day, as we
flow forward, inevitable river of we,
opening to the future’s unclear certainties.

 

 

“Inevitable River” first appeared in November 2019 at Twist in Time Magazine. Many thanks to editors Renee, Adrienne and Tianna for accepting this piece.

 

 

 

Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bread

That year we learned the true language of fear.
I baked boule and you haunted medical sites.

You said to arrive I must first depart
or be willing to suffer self-awareness. Let’s not

mention our pact just yet. My basic boule requires a
Dutch oven, 20 ounces of flour, water, yeast and salt.

At twenty I learned the finer points
of sausage-making, how to butcher chicken, and

that your hair smelled like dawn’s last flower.
Back then we owned the night. Now I harvest

wild yeast and sharpen pencils, make to-do lists,
pour Chianti, run numbers. I agreed

to your proposal. It would be a kindness, you said.
The pancreas produces hormones

and aids digestion. I chopped off my left thumbtip
and a year later the abscission point

still felt numb. After rolling the dough
into a ball, let it proof for an hour in an oiled bowl.

We shared a taste for sharp cheese
but never agreed on pillows. You loved

down comforters and found vultures fascinating.
Years together honed our lives

but we never considered what that meant. Score
the dough, bake it for 30 minutes with the lid on,

remove the lid and bake for another 15.
Kneading resembles breathing: in,

out. Rise, fall. Bright lights made your eyes water,
so I kept them dimmed. You swallowed

and said “Tell me how to knead bread.”
With the heel of your right hand, push down

and forward, applying steady pressure.
The dough should move under your hand.

Within minutes it will transform.

 

* * *

“Bread” was first published in Extract(s) in April 2015.

pillows

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.
wheels

 

On The Burden of Flowering

 

On the Burden of Flowering

Even the cactus wren
surrenders itself
to the task,

though it rarely listens
to my voice. How do clouds
blossom day to day

and leave so little
behind? The bookless shelf
begs to be filled, but instead

I watch the morning age
as the sun arcs higher.
Yesterday you said

the mint marigold
was dying. Today it
stands tall. Yellowing.

 

“On the Burden of Flowering” first appeared in Panoply in August 2016, and is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second.

 

 

Clandestine

 

Clandestine

​How did you slip so deftly past those bottled
years, through my ribcage and into the safe
room never before broached? I am the little
stones you gather, the morning’s obsidian eye.
Though the wind’s unseen fingers caress you,
coveting in a way I cannot, my hand, warm
against your pale belly, knows the truth of
contrast and heat, of flesh and gnarled bark.
Unveiling these furtive moves, our love smelts
tears into nuggets, transforms nights into
blue sky, sultry chatter into celestial song.
Our secrets kiss the dark quiet.

 

“Clandestine” first appeared in Issue 6 of Kissing Dynamite. I am grateful to the KD team for taking this piece.

 

 

Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome

Scarecrow3

 

Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome

Nothing about me shines or sparkles. If asked,
I would place myself among the discarded —
remnant cloth and straw, worn, inedible,
useless, if not for packaging intended to
convey a certain message, which I of course
have subverted to “Welcome, corvids!” Even
my voice lies stranded in the refuse, silent
yet harmonious, clear yet strangled, whole
and unheard, dispersed, like tiny drops of
vapor listing above the ocean’s swell, enduring
gray skies and gulls and those solemn rocks
bearing their weight against the white crush.
Why do I persist? What tethers a shadow
to its body? How do we hear by implication
what isn’t there? Bill Monroe hammered
his mandolin, chopping chords, muting,
droning, banging out incomplete minors
to expectant ears, constructing more than
a ladder of notes climbing past the rafters
into the smoky sky. What I sing is not
heard but implied: the high lonesome, blue
and old-time, repealed. Crushed limestone
underfoot. Stolen names, borrowed sounds.
Dark words subsumed by light, yellowed,
whitened, faded to obscurity, to obscenity.

 

“Scarecrow Sings the High Lonesome” first appeared in Crannóg, in June 2017.