Three Poems by Robert Okaji

Neither Grace nor Body

What is ash but death
lightened, emptied into air.

A hand released
from the making of soap,
the washing of limbs.
Unfinished prayers.

Neither grace nor body recovers.

A father sacrifices himself
that his boy may live.
No one hears, but someone
digs through the rubble,
uncovering. Later. Much later.


Beyond Accidental

I think of you as my nightshade,
a figure standing between ornamental
and poison, between flower and blade
or moonlight and black confetti sifting
through the day’s last seconds. How
is that sound shaped by never
and the tongue’s reluctant tip? I listen
as you chamber a round and promise
guilt and years of incomplete deeds.
I do not accept your venom. I cannot.


Less Than Absence

How loneliness greets me
with its dispassionate gaze
focused on the dead elm
at the crest of the neighbor’s
hill, reminding me that I
am the phrase not remembered,
lying just beyond the stone
fence, tucked out of sight,
but within reach, if only
your absence were less
than absence. If only.


Robert Okaji lives in Indiana. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Evergreen Review, riverSedge, Eclectica, Threepenny Review and elsewhere.