Waiting for the Windshield on the Freeway

brick

 

Waiting for the Windshield on the Freeway

Take velocity into account, figure height and distance,
add trajectory plus time, then let her rip. Billy likes solid
paving stones, while I prefer hollow cinder blocks. Karen
chooses traditional red bricks, as she lacks the upper body
strength to throw anything heavier. What she’s missing in
muscle, she makes up with accuracy – one bull’s-eye last
month, with three kills to her credit. Imagine driving down
the highway, singing along with Toby Keith when wham,
a brick spiderwebs your windshield and without thinking you
mash down the brakes and the idiot tailgating you crunches
your rear end, launching you off the road and into the muddy
ditch, while another obliviot crashes into him – Karen’s work.
The only time I’ve seen her smile. Billy says she’s meaner
than me and the old man put together, which is quite the
compliment. We don’t see each other often, but Daddy’s
up for parole in a few months, and if his lying has improved,
well, who knows. Billy’s aim ain’t much – he’s managed
to dent a few roofs and truck beds, and caused a Ford
F-150 to swerve, but that’s about it. Me, I’m hunting the big
game, the 18-wheelers. I got a good feeling about tonight.

 

“Waiting for the Windshield on the Freeway” was drafted during the August 2016 Tupelo Press 30/30 Challenge, and ten days later was featured on Algebra of Owls. Thanks to Leigh Smith for sponsoring the poem and providing the title, and editor Paul Vaughan for choosing this piece. 

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…

 

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.

 

 

 

Two Poems Up at Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art

 

My poems “Letter to Geis from This Side of the Glass” and “A Texas Goodbye” are live at the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art. D.G. Geis was a friend, a larger than life  poet, and a fellow Texan. We were both finalists for the Slippery Elm poetry prize in 2017, and after learning that we didn’t win, decided to have a “losers’ lunch” in Bandera, Texas, the closest town to our respective rural properties. Much laughter ensued, and we made plans to get together for a beer in the coming months. Alas, that was not to be.

 

 

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

photo(2)

 

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

 

Well Pump

 

Well Pump

To be within, yet without: the rootless seed.
Staring through glass, we see only the surface
sliced thin like cell-thick specimen slides.
I dream of knowing, of inclusion.
The well pump is fried, but only thieves
return our calls. How to deflect the lure
of complicity? Stack stone, observe clouds.
Tap the cistern. Absorb its hollow tune.

 

* * *

“Well Pump” first appeared in January 2018 in Amethyst Review.

Many thanks to editor Sarah Law for accepting it.

 

Creek Haibun

 

Creek Haibun

The creek’s waters flow so quickly that I make little headway in my attempt to cross. A water moccasin slips by, and my left boot takes on water. This is not real, I say. We’ve had no rain and I would not be so foolish as to do this. Asleep? Perhaps, but I’ve passed the halfway point and have no choice but to move forward. I slip and nearly pitch headfirst into the dark current. Lightning stitches the sky.

dreaming, the snake

swims against floodwaters

oh, what have I lost?

 

While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me

 

While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me

And having no other paper at hand,
I scrawl on a dollar bill, “I want to speak
the language of smoke.” My invisible friend
interrupts. That is a white man’s dilemma.

 At least you have a dollar and a pen.
“But I’m only half-white,” I reply, “with half
the privilege.” Then you must bear double
the burden,
he says. This version of math

twists my intestines into a Gordian knot,
as does the concept of half equals twice,
or in terms I might better comprehend,
one beer equals four when divided by color

or accent and multiplied by projection.
The unsmiling waitress delivers my rib-eye
as I’m dressing the salad, and the check appears
just after the first bites of medium-rare beef

hit my palate, certainly before I can answer the
never-voiced question “would you like dessert?”
Cheese cake, I would have said. Or cobbler. And I
seldom turn down a second beer. This too, I’m told,

is another example of my unearned entitlement. I
contemplate this statement, scribble a few other
phrases on bills, drop them on the table, and walk out,
wondering which direction to take, which to avoid.

 

* * *

“While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me” was a finalist last fall for the Slippery Elm Prize in Poetry. It was published in Slippery Elm (print only) in December 2017. You may be amused to hear that shortly after the winner was announced, I had lunch in Bandera with one of the other finalists in this competition, D.G. Geis, but not at the restaurant featured in the poem. The photo is of a local bar, not the eatery, but it offers some of the flavor of the town.

Shadow’s Tale

image

 

Shadow’s Tale

If I call,
will you
reply?

Questions
left unwritten
shape
themselves

like words
we see
but don’t
read. Signs

fade then
reappear,
and the oaks

droop
in the still
heat.
No rain

again. If
you call,
will I
reply?

 

image

“Shadow’s Tale” first appeared here in June 2015.