Photo by Aaron Mello on Unsplash

Two Poems by Robert Okaji

Ghost

You keep returning and I can’t say why.
I wake in the shrouded room and lie still for hours.

Sometimes you speak through the siding’s wind rattle,
in the rasping shingles or the gutter’s drain.

But who interprets these phrases?
No friend. No dictionary.

The dog barks at nothing and chases his tail
to exhaustion. Unlike sound,

light cannot penetrate these windows.
Perhaps the answer lies in the page’s hollow, between

words, or at the free end of a kite’s anchor,
wedged within clouds, echoing

like a cough in a decade’s breath
hammering down after a long illness.

I question afterlife, but dying continues.


First published in Shadowtrain, August, 2015


Ashes

To sweeten the dish, add salt. To bear the pain,
render the insoluble. She envied

the past its incursions, yet the past yields to all,
avoidance to acceptance, trees to smoke.

My mother brought to this country a token of her death to come.

Now it sits on my shelf bearing implements of music.
In her last days I played Sakura on the mandolin,

trusting that she might find comfort
in the blossoms fluttering through the failing notes,

a return to mornings
of tea and rice, of
warmth and paper walls and deep laughter.

Today the rain spells forgive

and every idea becomes form, every shadow a symptom,
each gesture a word, a naming in silence.

Scatter me in air I’ve never breathed.


First published in Extract(s), March, 2013


Robert Okaji lives in Texas and occasionally works on a ranch. The author of several chapbooks, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vox Populi, Panoply, Kissing Dynamite, Formidable Woman and elsewhere.