Poems by Robert Okaji


Roast Chicken

Contemplating the afterlife of birds,
I empty the carcass. My wife
offers rosemary sprigs,

which I stuff into the cavity
with whole garlic cloves
and seared lemon halves,

and then I compact it by tucking
the wings under and pushing
one leg through a slit in the other,

lessening the surface. One might
debate the shape of a bird’s
soul, the sanctity of structure

and limitation, of ritual and
the weight of fire’s gifts in
human brain development,

but trussing is essential
to the goal of proper
temperature attainment.

I pat it dry, sprinkle kosher salt
on the skin, put it in the oven,
set the timer for an hour, pour wine.

Following custom, we eat
without saying grace.
Piece by tender piece, it descends.


Nine Variations of a Cloud


Looking up, I renounce pity and the sadness of wind.


Only lust pulls and shapes more, diminishing your integrity.


It slips through whenever I try to grab it.


Every phrase is a window glowing at night, surrendered to its frame.


Water in another form is still water.


In whose ruins must you survive?


Another shape, another moment desperately spent.


And still you thrive in diminishment.


Bearing nothing, it conceals.

Robert Okaji is the author of the chapbook If Your Matter Could Reform (Dink Press) and the micro-chapbook You Break What Falls (Origami Poems Project). He lives in Texas with his wife and two dogs, and his work has appeared in such publications as Boston Review, Shadowtrain and Prime Number Magazine.

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