As Blue Fades
Which defines you best, a creaking lid or the light-turned flower?
The coffee’s steam or smoke wafting from your hand.
Your bowls color my shelves; I touch them daily.
Sound fills their bodies with memory.
The lighter’s click invokes your name.
And the stepping stones to nowhere, your current address.
If the moon could breathe would its breath flavor our nights?
I picture a separate one above your clouded island.
The dissipating blue in filtered light.
Above the coral. Above the waves and ocean floor far below.
Above the space your ashes should share.
Where the boats rise and fall, like chests, like the waning years.
Like a tide carrying me towards yesterday’s reef.
Or the black-tailed gull spinning in the updraft.
River Carry Me
I approach the window with closed eyes.
In this case, the between dissolves.
Without form and weight, still you linger.
A ticketless morning unfolds.
The water flows in braids, through stone and air.
Before my limits enact pity, before falling fruit.
Images condensed throughout the night.
An inheritance of trees curving towards the horizon.
One exactly as another’s, only different.
Better Than Drowning
As clouds leverage sky and the wind scours each night.
Surrounding the spiraling strands. Wherever I am. And am not.
Over the crushing waves, suspended between air and matter.
With the earth in taproots drilled through stone.
Under the layered fog, dampness upon dampness, differing by degree.
I see you where I don’t look. You live in the mirror.
The night conceals nothing, not even my guilt.
Not even my pleasure. Nor your smile.
I shake the quilt and spread you everywhere.
Though no door existed, it closed behind you.
Which is the point of absence, the fulcrum on which I balance.
You turn and join the light, casting no shadow.
Ghost, with a Line from Porchia
In my dreams you manifest in a younger form.
If I were to give you life, what could I give you?
Your hands never touched these walls, yet you inhabit them.
As my language inters you, I am absorbed in yours.
Some gifts are simply not proffered, others are released.
My fingers retrace your name in both sun and shade.
The rain taps out regrets, regrets on the metal roof.
Dim spirit, faint soul. Root-land. Shoal. Mother.
Each visit signals the darkness waiting.
Your battle with language, with silence, invoked.
I stretch the word and weave this dirge for you.
Note: “If I were to give you life, what could I give you?” is from Antonio Porchia’s Voices, translated by W.S. Merwin
I count more graves than people in my sleep,
but nothing turns more quickly
than an empty wind
in a place whose memory has died.
And all manner of departure: What you have left is you
without you. As if it could be different, as if decades
could withdraw and draft a blueprint of motive and action,
returning them, returning you, to that point
across the sea where the ship has not yet arrived.
If you ask she will say it does not matter. If you ask.
To be within, yet without, as in the unuttered phrase.
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
to render the void clear and resolute, the diction of
separation divided by decades and your ocean.
The language of silence, drawn near.
3. From the Other Side
Sometime becomes never and steps around a desolate corner,
and all we have left is our field
awash in stone, remnants of the unspoken.
I have no memory of you. Nor you, of me,
but the strands do not lie, and unraveled,
expose the imperfect blends
that compose my love. A leaky roof. The last word.
A pity to put up at all
but there is rain.
4. Another Night
Of all the hours which were the longest?
The earth trembled around me
and I lay still, bearing witness to
the uncertain malice of its
shrug, shoulders brought to
fore, then returned,
and finally, released. If,
after this half-century, words
could reform in your mouth,
what denial would issue?
Ashes, washing ashore.
And seeing you only as the shadow of an
ending whose voice lies
in an uncommon past, how
may we recognize the very shape we share?
The bridge’s fate is loneliness,
knowing that one side
decries the other’s
call, that separation affords new light:
they are between
comfort and space, between words and a smile,
between nothingness and sorrow,
two points, beginning and end,
reaching, in opposition, towards each other.
“What you have left is you without you” is from Edmond Jabes’s “At the Threshold of the Book” in The Book of Questions: Volume I, translated by Rosemary Waldrop.
“It is time the stone made an effort to flower” is from Paul Celan’s poem “Corona,” included in Poems of Paul Celan translated by Michael Hamburger.
“A pity to put up at all but there is rain” is from Basho’s Back Roads to Far Towns, translated by Cid Corman and Kamake Susumu.
Albert Huffstickler’s poem “Bridges” which appeared in The Balcones Review in 1987, begins “They are between…”
Some Answers You Never Considered
At the cusp of night, before the sun steams out in the ocean,
and blues abandon the reds.
Nothing rests at the core of zero.
Cerulean blue was first marketed as coerulium.
What we consider sky includes only its lowest reaches.
Even considering a dense history with kites, I humbly concede,
and admit sacrifice as atonement, with grace.
No. I say it again. No.
Your visual system constructs the colors you see.
Only when the wind unbuttons its greatcoat, or at the tip
of an icicle, just before the drop catches itself.
Release the line and know the freedom of loss.
Transparent yet wide, unfolded like a fist freeing
a swarm of bees into honeyed air, it contains us.
Your inability to see it does not refute the horizon’s base.
If I knew I’d tell you.
Robert Okaji lives in Texas. He is the author of the chapbooks From Every Moment a Second (forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, October 2017), If Your Matter Could Reform (Dink Press, 2015) and The Circumference of Other, included in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (Silver Birch Press, 2015). He’s also penned two micro-chapbooks published by Origami Poems Project (2015 & 2016), as well as Interval’s Night (Platypus Press, 2016), a mini-digital chapbook. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crannóg, Blue Fifth Review, deLuge, Wildness, The Mantle, and elsewhere. Visit his blog, O at the Edges, at http://robertokaji.com/.