In Praise of Rain (with recording)

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In Praise of Rain

Which is not to say lightning or hail.
Sometimes I forget to open the umbrella

until my glasses remind me: Wake up, you’re
wet! If scarcity breeds

value, what is a thunderhead worth
in July? A light shower in August?

Even spreadsheets can’t tell us.

***

“In Praise of Rain” is included in my recently released chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, available from the publisher, Slipstream Press. Signed copies may be purchased exclusively from Loud Bug Books in Indianapolis. Simply type in “Okaji” to view all of my available books, or just add the title. $10 plus shipping and tax (where applicable).

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My Chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, is Now Available via the Publisher and Biblio.com

Buddha's

The winner of Slipstream’s 35th Annual Poetry Chapbook Competition, Buddha’s Not Talking is now available for purchase through Slipstream Press. Signed copies are available exclusively from Loud Bug Books via Biblio.com here. Simply type in “Okaji” to view all of my available books, or just add the title. $10 plus shipping and tax (where applicable).

Cover art by the fabulous Stephanie L. Harper!

Gulf

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Gulf
for M.V.

Which looms wider, its sky or water? The birds, here, too,
reconvene in greater streaks. This morning I stomped around
Paisano, examining the grasses and soil, the rocks and various
configurations of clouds, and listened to experts discuss
prescribed burns and how the land’s contours can determine
sequence and efficacy. The mockingbird whose territory
we occupy has disappeared. Perhaps he’s just moved on.
I heard a red-bellied woodpecker yesterday, but never saw it,
and of course the rattlers at the ranch are still underfoot, just
less apparent this time of year. I looked closely, as always,
but never spied one. What else did I miss? The rich people
on the bluffs bulldoze habitat, poison creeks and erect their
Italianate villas, caring not a whit for the breeding warblers
or the landscape, although they might pony up a few bucks
for an environmental charity if sucked-up to properly. Given
a choice between the two, I’d pick the snakes every time;
they don’t smile or offer spiked drinks and stories of their
conquests, and usually warn before striking. Even a minor
deity might take offense and crack open a new fault in the
earth between this place and theirs, widening it by inches
with each presumption, every falsehood, whether shaded
in unrelated facts or illogic, until that shifting space could
be spanned solely by a bridge planked with truth and good
manners, and, yes, by mutual consent. Looking back, I
find many examples of these bridges collapsing in utero,
but we keep trying. Your story of the gulf coast storm
reminded me of weeks spent on calm water, and seeing,
no matter where I turned, blue meeting blue, from horizon
to horizon, the sky never broken by bird or cloud, born
anew each day, always looking between, never down.

 

 

“Gulf” was published in West Texas Literary Review in March 2017.

 

Dry Well

 

 

 

Dry Well 

I trace the symbols.

In the dirt, among the grubs and crooked
weeds. Writing of loss. Of missing things.

Wondering if words will fill my mouth
with wool or grit. With pebbles and salt.

If truth is what I want.

 

* * *

 

“Dry Well” first appeared in Vox Populi in August 2019. I’m grateful to editor Michael Simms for his steadfast support.

 

My Chapbook, Buddha’s Not Talking, is Now Available

Buddha's

The winner of Slipstream’s 35th Annual Poetry Chapbook Competition, Buddha’s Not Talking is now available for purchase. Slipstream Press has not yet provided an order link on their site, but signed copies may be ordered here. Simply type in “Okaji” to view all of my available books, or just add the title. $10 plus shipping and tax (where applicable).

Cover art by the fabulous Stephanie L. Harper!

Letter to Geis from This Side of the Glass

 

Letter to Geis from This Side of the Glass

Dear Greg: I can’t help but think about windows, their
function, their meanings, intended and otherwise, how
they block some entities but allow others entrance. A
black vulture feather lies just on the other side of this
pane, but the laws of material and physics prevent me
from reaching through and claiming it. Maybe I’d
sharpen the end, dip it into squid ink and write letters.
Or not. Cephalopods are scarce in the hill country,
unlike carrion birds, wild hogs and scorpions, and frankly,
ballpoint pens require less maintenance. Lately, the
opaque has redirected my attention — no matter which
government agency speaks, I feel surrounded by their
pseudomorphs, those little indistinct clouds of mucus and
dark pigment released to confuse and numb me. A common
occurrence, I hear, and all the more frightening for it. I
think of where we’re headed, collectively and individually,
and even knowing that our destination remains unchanged
offers small comfort. One foot at a time, the steps matter,
and though it appears we won’t share those planned brews
in Bandera, I’ll chuckle over our last meeting there and
dream up a conversation about futility and compromise,
and yes, success. I’ve just spent twenty minutes trying to
help a yellow jacket escape. It wouldn’t leave the glass even
after I left the door ajar, allowing a fly to enter. Instead,
it gazed out at the hazy morning, seeking a way through
refraction’s oblique path. Finally, shepherded with my bare
hand, it reluctantly skittered to the jamb, and I coaxed it
the final few inches by pushing it with the door. Such
are my days. A little faith, some hope, luck and a great
unknowing. This window seems cloudy, or is it just
my eyes? I miss you, buddy, as do the hills and the sky
and everything nestled and bustling between.  Bob

 

 

 

This first appeared in May 2020 in 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.

 

 

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.

real-patriots

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

alamo3

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.