From Every Moment a Second by Robert Okaji
From the sex lives of mayflies to the plus and minus of human love, in his backyard or over the kitchen sink, Robert Okaji is a soul whisperer. With zen-like precision and depth he shepherds us between the habitual world, in which “the house finch sings as if/all air will expire at song’s end” and invisible realms where “the pear tree’s ghost shudders” and time does its magic act: “your breath/still out there//drifting”. He makes you think—a lot—then gives you a reason to laugh (“Wait, wait…I bought a ticket”). These poems please the palate in so many ways!
Robert Okaji has an uncanny knack for observing what moves in the shadow of a word: in the numinously ordinary things abiding on shelves and in boxes. Writing with a reticent and inquisitive eye, he finds the unspoken grace in an unremarkable bird, an incomplete spice rack, or the soapy remnants of a morning shave, all documented in the inevitable music of his craft. The result is this chapbook: a rustic, elegant anthology of doubt and illumination, and superior example of 21st century Americana.
–Daniel Schnee, ethnomusicologist.
We worry about where we are in this new century, but here is a poet whose concerns are one step ahead of us — delving centuries behind to get there. If we are indeed in a deeper “economy of dying” as he writes in “Take Away,” then Robert Okaji is our foremost venture capitalist — investing the grim with whimsy, rejoicing without looking away, looking forward without forgetting. Be warned, nothing is too easy in his world; even comfort is a “runaway bus,” and having a ticket does not guarantee it will stop for you.
–Jeff Schwaner, author of Wind Intervals.