Robert Okaji

I Feel the Wind

When evening’s gloom thickens I
rest before your heat. What have
we learned, I ask. Have you heard
via gases weaving their hisses in
your shuddering logs stories of the
people whose bruised voices
no longer register? The burl of
discontent ashes over in the
same way: I feel the wind
but cannot see it. I see the
circumstance but those voices
have felt the brass fists of
memory’s sins. I am my
brother’s keeper, bereft and dim,
starved, lonely. Broken, killed
yet breathing, I await the children.

A Golden Shovel poem from “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Believe Me

No one knows better than I
the flowering red, which nights have
flickered in smoke, or who’s heard
the axe handle’s thunk on skulls in
a casual burst. One night the
protestor’s wife sang to those voices
we disenfranchised never reach; of
the seven described by her as the
simpering embers of last year’s wind
blanched into the eternal zip, only the
dead one remains. Their silence voices
more groans of I can’t breathe, cries of
multitudes lying on the pavement. My
god, my mother, my body shriven and dim
in this sanctuary of peace, not yet killed
or appeased; a smoke they’ll offer the children.

A Golden Shovel poem from “The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks.


Robert Okaji is a displaced Texan living in Indiana. A half-Japanese, self-avowed military-brat and U.S. Navy veteran, he holds a BA in history, and once owned a bookstore. Though he’s never been awarded a major literary prize, he once won a goat-catching contest. The author of five chapbooks, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, North Dakota Quarterly, Vox Populi, Eclectica, Panoply and elsewhere.

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