Texas Haibun

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Texas Haibun

I dream of poetry in all its forms, rising and flowing and subsiding without end, much like ice shrugging within itself. Last winter a hard freeze split a valve on the downstream side of the cistern. Had it cracked even a few inches up-line there would have been no need to replace the valve.

captive rain recalls
its journey towards the ground
the garden returns

The well terminates at 280 feet. The water is hard, but cool, and tastes of dark limestone and ancient rains.

Even the gnarled live oaks have dropped their leaves. Grass crunches underfoot and smells like dead insects and dried herbs. Mosquitoes have vanished. Only the prickly pears thrive. Their flowers are bright yellow and bloom a few days each year.

sauteed with garlic
nopalitos on my plate
their thorns, forgiven

I wipe sweat from my forehead with the back of the glove, and wonder how many ounces of fluid have passed through my body this year, how the rain navigates from clouds through layers of soil and stone, only to return, how a cold beer might feel sliding down my throat.

stoking the fire
winter rain whispers to me
forget tomorrow

 

* * *

Originally posted in February, 2014, this was my first attempt at a haibun.

 

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Sensing My Dismay at the Election Results, My Wife’s Dog Presses Against Me

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Sensing My Dismay at the Election Results, My Wife’s Dog Presses Against Me

And when I roll over, my toe finds a hole in the not
inexpensive 400 thread count percale sheet and rips

down its length, and I wonder if I should extend this
metaphor to include walls and the unbearable weight

of societal collapse, or hatred with small hands and
minds or faces like pale disks of whitewashed emptiness

glaring at my friends, or, well, my wife and me, across
the restaurant’s laminate booths or the potholed street

by the bus stop. I recall the woman’s sneer and hushed
commentary that afternoon, and though I wanted to

correct her mistaken assumption (hey, lady, I’m not
Hispanic) and redirect her bigotry to the correct ethnicity,

I chose instead to smile and wave goodbye, to drive to
the polls and cast my ballot, one drop in that dark bucket

of nothingness, floating alone, perhaps to coalesce with
others and attain some sense of parity and belonging,

or to remain outcast, bewildered, wondering how this
could be, what’s happened to us, my home, our country.

* * *

This first appeared on the blog in November 2016.

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Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex?

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This poem is dedicated to the memory of haiku master and good friend Ron Evans, who provided and sponsored the title for the Tupelo Press 30/30 fundraiser challenge I participated in during August 2015. Ron passed away in September 2018. I miss our pun-filled exchanges, his zany sense of humor and our wide-ranging discussions. Life continues, but the light has dimmed…

Calvin Coolidge — Live or Memorex?

They say the wind in Alvarado bypasses closed doors, slips through
book-laden walls and plate glass and into your dreams where it circles
and accumulates, whirling, whirling, steadily gaining force, gathering
loose pages and errant thoughts and memories too combustible to
burn, ignoring time’s compression and the gravity of dying suns, forever
counting, talking, thinking, looking up and out between the long nights.

unable to sleep           he opens a window          daring the wind

The 30th President of the United States breathes and writes at the junction
of an invisible house and a wheat field in Alvarado, in the guise of a
74-year old haiku poet. No longer the solemn ass, Cal laughs and speaks
and observes his two birthdays, recalling Harding’s scandals and Dorothy
Parker’s “How can they tell?” with equal relish. Sometimes he dresses
in tails and top hat, and speaks in 17-syllable phrases. Sometimes.

spitting out sake            in the shadow’s glare            death forestalled

Alvarado’s laureate is leaving it all behind – the presidency, the books,
the kolaches – catching the next breeze out of town, a silver-tongued
dust devil riding the word, spewing puns all the way to Indiana. But
buried in a waterproof box near Oswald’s grave, 314 cassette tapes
capable of shattering crystal carry his voice further than their unwound
lengths, whirring incessantly, celebrating life, praising the long wind.

standing in the sun          wisdom blows by          no questions today

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Flood Gauge in the Morning

 

 

Flood Gauge in the Morning

It reclines on its side, submerged.
So far, so good, it seems
to say. Still here, still intact.
And the bridge looks so clean
from this angle
underwater.

I toss
a fist-size stone
onto the upstream
side of the road,
and watch it wash away.
Maybe we’ll cross tomorrow.

 

 

“Flood Gauge in the Morning” is included in my chapbook, From Every Moment a Second, available for order via Amazon.com and Finishing Line Press.

 

 

Cedar Grove (after Wang Wei)

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Cedar Grove (after Wang Wei)

I sit alone among the cedars,
play my guitar and hum.
In this dark forest
no eye spies me but the moon’s.

My take on Wang Wei’s “Bamboo Grove,” from this transliteration copied somewhere along the way:

alone sit dark bamboo among
strum lute again long whistle
deep forest man not know
bright moon come mutual shine

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“Cedar Grove” made its first appearance here in March 2014. I adapted it to fit my circumstances…

You might find the Wikipedia entry on Wang Wei of interest.

Bandera

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Bandera

I offer nothing in return, and in offering, receive.
My mouth is a river

whose current bears no words,
but the silence is not of my making.

Notice the streets and their grey
hunger, the rain and the sun

passing by much
as one passes an unopened door.

That question, unvoiced.
That shiver preceding the icy touch.

You may deny my motives.
You may deny my existence and

the very notion of shape unto form.
I offer nothing, and in offering, receive.

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“Bandera” first appeared here in May 2015, and was subsequently published in The Basil O’Flaherty in November 2016.

While Trespassing I Note the Sadness of Old Fences

 

While Trespassing I Note the Sadness of Old Fences

I write poems when I can,
in late morning or during

the afternoon, between chores
but before dinner. And sometimes

I duck through spaces
void of wire barbs, and consider

how to fill the incomplete, which words,
what materials could repair

those particular holes. I cut my own
fence once, to access our house

when the creek flooded the road,
lugging uphill through the snake

grass a jug of scotch, my mandolin
and a watermelon, essentials for a weekend’s

respite. To be truthful I cut only the lowest
strand, to help the dog get through — I

was able to climb over, but he couldn’t dig
through the limestone rubble to wriggle

under, and we’d come too far
to simply turn around.

 

* * *

This appeared in riverSedge, Volume 29, Issue 1, released in October 2016. I first encountered riverSedge in 1983, and vowed that one day my poetry would be published in this journal. It took a while…

 

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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A Herd of Watermelon

 

A Herd of Watermelon

My work tools include rubber boots, a hydraulic
jack and snake tongs. Prevention over cure, always.

A helicopter’s shadow crosses the yard.
I sweat in cold weather; today even the shade burns.

Ants swarm a dead bat on the gravel.
No keys for these locks, no fire for that place.

Stepping inside, the city welcomes me.
We drain coffers for this grass, and hope for rain.

This morning two deer jumped the east fence while I
updated software. The significance eludes us.

A dream of watermelons rising from their viny beds,
lumbering through the field to the creek. Rebellion!

How many have sat at this desk before me, plotting
murders and rumors or rhymes. Die, mosquito. Die!

 

 

“A Herd of Watermelon” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30-30 Challenge. Thank you to Plain Jane for sponsoring the poem and providing the title. Alas, my time at this very special place has ended. No longer in Texas, I seek work elsewhere. What will I find?

 

End of the Road

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End of the Road (2002)

Neither expected nor sought, truth arrives.
One phrase, a minute turn of the

wrist, and the beginning reverses itself, becomes
vessel versus point, illuminating

the reach: one sign, two paths. The agave.
How far we’ve come to affect this place.

Last season the flowers were gray and we knew nothing.
Even the stones quivered with laughter.

And then it rained. And the creeks rose, and the bedrock
appeared as if to say your efforts lack

substance. Look underfoot. There lies the truth.
Neither expected nor sought, it arrives.

 

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