Jul/Aug 2017 Poetry

Three Poems

by Robert Okaji

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

A Word Bathing in Moonlight

You understand solitude,
the function of water,
how stones breathe
and the unbearable weight
of love. Give up, the voice says.
Trust only yourself.
Wrapped in light, you
turn outward. Burst forth.


Scarecrow Dreams

If by night I move without aid,
what then? Precious flesh, precious
bone, never mine to lose—the difference
between nothingness and no thing. A
pity that my friends fly at the merest
movement, but when the air’s breath
stills, they sing and rattle among the
grain, writing their days in song
and footprints, seeking the available
on the ground. And what scrolls lower
than the sound of sunflowers turning?
The laughing daughter runs around
my lattice spine, scattering joy like so
many seeds, and when my hollow
fingers clench, the earth quivers, or
so it seems. Then midnight returns
and I disengage and stalk about,
scaring rodents and their predators,
hooting in harmony with the owls
reveling in the night air, remembering
the holy shirt, a yellow glove, corn
silk’s gleam at noon and the warmth
of your fingers against my burlap skin.
I do not breathe, I say, but I exist. By
morning what joins me but the tune
of yet another bird, unseen, melodious,
the pulse of morning’s dew. Eternity.
How my straw tongue longs to sip it.


Missing Loved Ones

You marvel that a simple garment retains so much of a person's
being. I watch the worm swinging on its long thread

from one side of the door's frame to the other,
wondering how to avoid it should I go out, but a sparrow

solves that problem. In 365 BC, Gan De detected what was likely
Ganymede, but history records no other sightings until Galileo

in January, 1610. Thus an entity with twice the mass of our
moon went missing for 1,900 years, which helps explain

the parameters of oblivion. But nothing equals the heft
and gravitational pull of those we miss—the dead, the gone,

the lost, the never-coming-back—a friend's laughter
still echoing twenty years later, a lover's taste and smell

rekindled with each autumn's first fire, or the dog's warmth.
Small wonder that we ever exit the house, leaving these

companions behind. I watch the sparrow snatch another
snack, and consider the mechanics of loss. Ubiquitous, but

generated anew. Unique yet common, unfelt and devastating.
Late at night, you say, I draw comfort from cloth, stroke

the once inhabited trousers or the flannel sheets resting
in the drawer. This scarf, her love. That shirt, my heart.


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