Robert Okaji

Palinode (birds)

Simplicity, as in the cloaca. One aperture for all: eggs, urine, sperm, feces. The majority of birds copulate by joining the openings of their cloacae (most male birds lack penises). Nothing is for nothing.

Nothing is for nothing, but the ache of emptiness bestows its own reward. That movement from outer world to inner, to anima, to breath, to flight, approaching heaven. Birds know the way.

Knowing the way, birds express our envy of the boundless, testament to the unity of earth and sky, instinct’s voice. We see feathers not as epidermal outgrowths, but as emblems of what we forever seek.

As emblems of what we seek, crows exploit man’s folly, exposing hidden truths. Thought and memory recede, leaving us foundered. Altered consciousness, flight, the space to believe, simplicity’s forms in one.

Palinode (salt, mask, descent)

Tracing the map to the swaying places, she rises through the interior world, garnering peace by syllable. Water, clouds and sand mark her ascent. The expectation is return, renewal. My friend did not awaken this morning, and tonight I praise her passage with drink and song. Matter into spirit, mountain into sky, redemption, freedom. We bathe in light, reclaiming the liminal. Our tears evaporate, leaving salt and untrod paths in our wake.

The paths in our wake delimit the future, but everything falls. Which do we desire more, the grasp or its release? That instant preceding fear defines a yearning particular to its course, a cycle of regression and progress: ancestors descend into human or animal form, die, depart to the heavens, and return anew. Distilled power, a bridge to the spirits, the mask unshutters and conceals the conscious mind. Opening my eyes, I release the sun.

I release the sun and observe the results. From sky to soil, from above to below, to solidity. Spirit acquires matter, disperses and regroups. Rain and alluvion, flooded homes, the dark night of childish laughter. Each to her own path, each to an end. Muting the string, I touch the harmonic into the world, linking civility to proportion, lowering dissonance. Everything falls. Everything. From curve to angle, we resist and rejoice. In this design parabola, she descends.

Palinode (serpent, door, eye)

Through lidless eyes it sees where mine cannot, withdrawing, encircling, renewing components of the subtle body, representing both sun and moon. I look westward as rain patters on the metal roof and remember lightning and a beveled door. Someday this, too, will shiver past. Da Vinci wondered that such modesty could contain the universe, but he knew its reflective power. Unwound or spent, bitter or dry, open, unquenched. The eye is not a man.

The eye is not a man and acquires without greed, collects without intent. Shifting the snake from doorway to grass, I release and observe its escape. The journey from look to see, from inner to outer, to being. Is vision infinite or indicative? We focus, transmit, retain and forget, resolving the beholder’s mystery. It hears through jawbone and skin, preferring low notes. Closed doors, locks, glass. Protection, witness to wrath. I see and withdraw, and withdrawing, incur.

I see and withdraw, the visual cortex influencing my response. The snake, renewed in periphery. Man’s world is his eye.* And what is a coil but the infinite deferring its nature? A moment shudders through the dorsal stream’s impulse. The door blows shut. Internal vision forgetting, repelling, denying the iris and its purpose: shaping light’s entrance. That which reflects, captures. Knowing this, knowing refraction and the beauty of inversion, I accept consequence, and retain.

*Man’s world is his eye is a Bambara saying.

Robert Okaji's work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in riverSedge, Steel Toe Review, High Window, The Lake, Panoply and elsewhere.
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home