Three Poems by Robert Okaji


What if you close your eyes
and your throat relinquishes

the morning’s bright
fingers, freed from bruises.

Suppose that particular night
never happened, the way

a wave crashing ashore
empties itself and trickles

back in separate communities,
mingling yet aloof, a

diminishing cortege. What
is the question? Take this

spoon. Fill it with saltwater.
Upend it into the pail. Observe.

Blowing on the Bamboo Flute, My Mind Wanders

Naming a life does not change its substance.

Today’s ‘D’ follows yesterday’s, but tickles the ears
with softer lips.

Surely what you are not signifies who you are.

The flute or the player, the breath
or the opening?

If I die today, at least I have tasted good air
and poured my love a cup of fresh coffee.

Sequence also reveals truths.

From mouth to sound, the separation
clear but controlled and of one whole,

no matter its name, no matter yours.

Morning Suizen

Boundless, it sips direction in the way of all music,
tonguing each note for its salt.

We call this ecstasy. Or peace.
Follow, and they still escape, always beyond
our outstretched fingers.

Exhale slowly. What do you know?

That long tunnel, ribbed in silence.
The scent of burning cedar.
Days framed in darkness and birdsong.


Note: Suizen is the practice of playing the shakuhachi, the traditional Japanese bamboo flute, as a means of attaining self-realization.

Robert Okaji lives in Texas. The author of five chapbooks, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in The High Window, Vox Populi, The Clearing, Sleet and elsewhere.

8 thoughts on “Three Poems by Robert Okaji

  1. Excellent work as always! I can’t figure out which one I love best. Just love your style of writing and how you describe things. You take a reader right to the heart of … I don’t know, i’ts just so visceral, there is not one single word of fluff that one can skim over in any of your writing, ever. Sometimes every other word is packing a huge punch. Just awesome my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

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