the poetry that matters

Robert Okaji

Robert Okaji lives in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in Otoliths, Clade Song, Prime Number Magazine, and Vayavya, among others.



Palinode (soubasse)


In the land of two-dollar mornings, those things we barely sense take precedence: uncaressed skin sheathed in ivy, the punctuation mark diverting power. Insidious corn, the cries of distressed trees (cavitation in the xylem), soubasse, the ghost note, prickling from below. Singularity. The appointee’s hubris. The defining weight of a zero’s center.


A zero’s center defines emptiness, meaning nothing, or, diverted light, a vacuum. Regard plenum: an air-filled space, or a complete gathering of a legislative body. And how did we arrive here from there? From the body we compose units of measure: an ell, digit, fathom, the mile’s thousand paces. I expose film to light, concealing yet establishing a rational point.


Concealing the point implies position without extension, a moment shedding its cracked sheath and giving rise to the divine: above, below, male and female, hot or cold. Reconciliation. A plateau. The still place linking the infinite to the open hand, limitless black. Burning, I calculate oxidation and dispersal, tendrils, a flaxen leaf, its proposition to endings.




Palinode (platelets, sign, color)


Cloistered, it circulates and combats, feeds, heals and defends, destroying, at times, its host, and thereby itself. Extracted, it congeals into a dark symbol, resembling our innermost facade. The reddened moon, incorruptible and estranged. A bull’s eye. I pressure it daily, measuring flow and constricting elements. Numinous river, source of strength, the internal flood.


The internal flood summons bitterness,  application of the embodied life, rubedo. I inscribe my name in three strokes: the upright, the downward curve, the encompassing circle, omitting the between: as above, so below. The color-blind more accurately perceive texture, alleviating the effects of spectral sensitivity. We build from within, flowing outward in unison.


Flowing outward, split asunder, I assume the neural response. Color, as expression, as survival factor, attractant and warning. As symbol. The ancients buried red pigment with bones to hasten renewal. Life energy, passion and rage. The force in bodies, in spirit, in blood. Shade of the alchemist’s sulfur, glowing embers, ash, the transitory energy of human desire.





Palinode (passway)


What falters in translation? The dove’s silhouette resides on the window three months after the sudden refusal. I observe wingprints, the skull’s curve, a history of assumptions angled in the moment of impact. And after, residue. Light’s incident rests. One body whispers another’s shape and the next rumbles through the narrowing passway. Traitorous, I call it fact. I name it truth, and naming it, reverse the coat.


I name it truth, but considered denial, root of the renegade’s movement. I have a bird to whistle and I have a bird to sing. Misperception in flight. Betrayal’s gate, unhinged. What comes next? Sunlight slants through the window each morning, and departs, bending in reversal. Stones all in my pass. Dark roads. Another naming, another transition. Trials waged in the grammar of refraction. The deflected word.


The deflected word reciprocates and the sky opens, outlining its missing form. I have pains in my heart, they have taken my appetite. Derived from wind, from eye, from hole. Once through, what then? Mention archetype, and my world dims. Mention windows, and I see processions and enemies lined along the way. Boys, please don’t block my road. We select certain paths, others choose us. Wingprints on glass.



Notes: italicized selections are from Robert Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway.”





                                                                                                             January 14, 2014