Two Poems by Robert Okaji

Unwinding the Snake (after Linda Gregg)

Old moon, you piss me off,
smiling so in your flimsy gray
sheets, looking so content.
The snake wraps itself around
my wrist, squeezing. Its eyes
say nothing to me. Nothing,
as if I were a temple devoid of
laughter, the cliff at dawn’s
edge, or a kangaroo rat skittering
under mesquite. I unwind the
snake, place it in the grass,
look up. You still piss me off.

*

Water Strider

Without you I am the roofless house
awaiting a thunderstorm, a water
strider in a drying creek, that boulder
poised at the canyon’s rim before
the earth shivers. I am the pan without
fire, a spoke missing its wheel, the
skydiver’s nightmare, a black hole’s
belly regurgitating light. I hike and
sweat, and every second leans slowly
against the next, tiny glaciers pushing
minutes behind, pulverizing the long
incremental days into fine gravel.
Where are you, I ask. What is this
fever, this surging tune I cannot hum?

*

Robert Okaji is a displaced Texan seeking work in Indiana. He no longer owns a bookstore, is a U.S. Navy veteran, and once won a goat-catching contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Book of Matches, Vox Populi, North Dakota Quarterly, Boston Review, Tistelblomma, Crannóg and elsewhere.

Two Poems by Vasiliki Katsarou

The Reading

     after a 1976 filmed poetry reading by Jack Gilbert and Linda Gregg

her hair is a curtain
her man worships behind

*

he is dressed in fatigues

*

she might be a chain smoker
growing glowing ash
so that a floating star is always before her

*

he once disintegrated

*

he put himself together with words
glued to his chest and innards

*

as he reads, her look of horror and admiration
as she reads, his look of perfect indifference

*

her laughter dissipates like smoke
but her voice is undertow

 

The Branch

my mother leans
into the kitchen doorway
dressed in my old clothes

digging and weeding
and now gleefully, she brandishes a question,
a branch–

wayward branch,
she found you jammed
inside the flowering azalea
hard by my front door

how she pulled you,
broken thorny dead thing
from the shrub of flowers
and offered you to me

misbegotten bouquet of dry bark,
and how tickled by my lapse
she stands in wait—

how it mars the face
of the house
I show my neighbors

how the unsightly
has indeed hovered
at my doorstep

and I willfully
blind to its presence
came and went
and never once stopped

to thank her

Vasiliki Katsarou’s poems have appeared in Contemporary American VoicesPoetry DailyNoon: Journal of the Short PoemRegime Journalwicked aliceLiterary MamaWild River Review, as well as a number of anthologies. Her first collection, Memento Tsunami, was published in 2011. She read her work at the 2014 Dodge Poetry Festival, the largest poetry festival in the United States. Her website is http://onegoldbead.com/.