From Every Moment a Second by Robert Okaji
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
From the poet/author of the stunningly sublime If Your Matter Could Reform comes this new chapbook in pre-order until October 2017.
This collection of 20 poems is a study in the ephemeral and the elusive, in the little things like mayflies and beetles, but also in the delicate flicker of shadows. Mostly it aims to express the intangible and barely accessible, such as Grief which permeates the collection:
[from “Every Wind”]
Grief ages one thread at a time,
lurking like an odor
among the lost
or your breath,
still out there,
The speaker finds the world around him reflecting his grief, longing, and desperation. From quick observations like the lines “The house finch sings as if / all air will expire at the song’s end” [from “If Ahead I See”] to the extended association of “Firewood”:
For two years the oak
We had aged
together, but somehow
I survived the drought
and ice storms, the
regret and wilt,
the explosions within,
and it did not.
I do not know
the rituals of trees,
how they mourn
a passing, or if
the sighs I hear
betray only my own
frailties, but even
as I fuel the saw and
tighten the chain,
I look carefully
for new growth.
A couple strong poems find inspiration in art. One from Hokusai’s wood print “Two Cranes on a Snowy Pine”
and the other from the jazz riffs of Miles Davis and Johnny Coltrane. The latter reflects both the improvisational jazz licks and the cadences of previously likewise-inspired poets such as Allen Ginsberg.
[from “The Resonance of No”]
. . . while standing with hands in soapy water, thoughts
skipping from Miles Davis’s languid notes to the spider
ascending to safe shelter under the sill (after I blow
on her to amuse myself), washing my favorite knife . . .
. . . And if I linger at the plates, even the chipped one,
admiring their gleam after hot water rinses away
the soap residue, who could question the gulp
of ale or the shuffle of an almost but not quite
dance step or stumble while arranging them on the
ribbed rack, back-to-back, in time to Coltrane’s
solo. Then the forgotten food processor’s blade
bites my palm . . .
I received my copy of this collection directly from the poet.
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