by Robert Okaji
That it shudders through
and presages an untimely end,
that it transforms the night’s
body and leaves us
breathless and wanting,
petals strewn about,
messenger and message in one,
corporeal hosts entwined,
that it moves, that it blends,
that it withdraws and returns without
remorse, without forethought, that it
increases, expands, subtracts,
renders, imposes and releases
in one quick breath, saying
I cannot feel but I touch,
I cannot feel.
Can the wind be personified? Can it worry over its inability to feel? Yes. How do I know? This poem told me so. Can a person, in a moment of despair, look back on her life and see all the times she imposed her will then fled, wreaked havoc, built destroyed and rebuilt, settled quietly down one evening to mourn decades lost without truly understanding love? Yes. How do I know? This poem told me so.
Think of the first time you discovered a poem that spoke to you. What an experience! To discover emotion between the letters of a single word or absolutely bursting from a stanza; to feel an instant of heartbreak or immeasurable elation, to hold a blade of grass between your fingers held by someone long ago or far way, a person you have not met, will not meet, and yet … the two of you just shared this incredibly intimate moment. Is it possible that, upon discovering this poem and all the magic within, that you have truly met the poet?
Robert Okaji’s chapbook, If Your Matter Could Reform, is not a collection from which we can derive the author’s life’s goals. From this book, we cannot surmise whether or not he is fearless, rich or poor, patriotic or religious. Can he paint? I don’t know.
In this book, what we find is Robert Okaji’s depth of acceptance for what cannot be explained, his love of language and his willingness to observe and learn as language does its work. We see flashes of vulnerability from a distance, an artful distance. There is subtlety, mystery, bright and bold images, blurry colors that might be blurred by hurt or love or boredom, or almost forgotten anger.
Most remarkable about this artful distance is that we can still pick up the timbre of his voice. The wonder in it. The way it can stall in moments of potential doubt, fear, passion, indecision, then swirl and skillfully fall with absolute acceptance, confidence. And even across that distance, something as familiar and humdrum as the wind recounted in that voice can reveal beautiful, terrible secrets — the beautiful, terrible secrets of the readers’ perspective.
What we learn from If Your Matter Could Reform is that Robert Okaji is a poet.
I invite you today to talk with this poet. Ask him about the works displayed on O at the Edges. Ask him about the whispered revelations shared in Window Open, Closed previously recorded and published at Bonnie McClellan’s Weblog. Feel free to share your own insights about poems that have spoken to you, and what discoveries have been made about your own perceptions as a reader.
Writing has happened! The July Week Two prompt has been interpreted by Writers of the FLAME, and now you may read, comment, and vote HERE! Do you have Shane the Flame’s Six, or do you plan to lay down cover for another awesome writer?