culvert

though set in Jeju, i think this poem is something slightly other to what i have been posting over the previous months, perhaps you may think otherwise, if so, please comment below with your welcomed observations. O, & Mr Okaji, if you are reading, this poem was marginally inspired by a photograph, i suppose there is potential for poetry to be born out of photography.

 

Culvert

water’s pace & scent

the sea roaches come out of hiding to lead me, a band of beetling pipers
who disappear into the cracks of the world when we reach
a dead bird, unidentifiable, looks like a daub of pepper paste,
its beak, an arrow directly aiming at a culvert.
with this constant velocity, with this constantly altered water poured
out this culvert, here, beside me, burrowing blindly through a ramshackle wall
of slap dash cement work, long taunted by the spindrift of the hankering surf & wind.
i’d guess the water has been filing down this ledge
& feeding the moss to the stodginess of a welcome mat a fair few decades now;
i’d also guess the pebbles in the shallows
that look like pot-pouri mingled with green flames of billowing sea weed,
have not been arranged thoughtlessly, but with an eye for thoughtless design.
it isn’t sewage gushing out, i know, because i smell only the sea.

way out a womb

in the complex grain of drift
wood i can plot a route
that leads all the way home,
away from this warm place, this womb.
it is a map & on the adverse
i can make out E.M. Forster’s
profile; he looks pleased with himself but doesn’t smile.
over by where the wagtails, wag their tails
there are hefty bundles of fishermen’s rope
folded like a placenta round a baby’s throat.

how far away ourselves are

i sip from a metal cup the dregs of makkoli & note
how it resembles semen, raise my head that has tip toed
further west without my knowing.
the sun is balanced on the head of a pin.
i am full & my lips are no longer dry.
i can taste salt & i am glad i know why.
i am furthest from the truth of myself when thoughts
pour with the same pace as the water spewing out the culvert
: my whole life i have been the other & now that
i am, i want to be like everybody else; i only just realized this.
i have borrowed myself, my persona, from characters i never met;
i am so many people & they do not know that we are them & they are us.

ideas full of rain

i’ve had my fallings out before, but never with ideas.
& now i’ve no ideas left, i’m left with nothing but ideas;
if ideas in this sentence was left blank you could fill it with anything.
i know Jack Shit about amorous love, the bolt of touch our skin conducts,
its orifices closed to me,
as if the culvert wall gave out to wind & wave
& toppled in crumpled curl like an old man rolled up in a ball.
it looks as if a bad turns brewing in the air: the sky’s collected faggots of cloud
& looks about ready to retaliate upon the refugees of photosynthesis;
you can learn so much from this analogy…
the one anchored boat out there has begun to look lonely & vulnerable.
how is it clouds so malleable & frail have so much influence?
i wish our politicians were more like cloud: choleric & pliable.

things i don’t want to forget

i can’t get Omran Daqneesh out my thoughts: his atomic hair,
his bloodied face, his astonishment; nor Aylan Kurdi’s lifeless body
carried in the arms of that Turkish police officer.
i try to picture them safe, but i just can’t tug the wool down anymore
: those New Age goons are just so full of crap.

i start to sob a pathetic sob, a cowardly sob
: as nobody is here to witness me sobbing so pathetically
i sob pathetically, & it doesn’t change anything, i am a useless, intolerable man,
letting my sobs seep out like water from this culvert i have had to become so dependent on.
i never knew you could become embarrassed to be seen with yourself.

i no longer have any esteem for oneness with anything or everything
: i couldn’t tolerate too long with all that cushioning & support: too much guilt.

the birth of death

i should masturbate & smear the cum on a well composed epithalamium,
wedge it in a bottle & post it to impregnate the sea.
then shoals of our children will drown the whole world.
& i’ll find contentment in my fluids being part of a single eschatological triumph.
i want to say this is just the beginning of something
but i have progressed too far forward in raising murmurs to roars.
i am one of time’s abductees,
let’s counsel each other before the tides shift over our cities
: we have lost too much time, being with time…

9 Comments Add yours

  1. robert okaji says:

    Ah, those photos! I don’t feel this is so different from your other work – it sounds like you, or at least what I expect from your work: striking images, taut language, deft layering of philosophical meanderings. But perhaps this piece is a bit better developed? You’ve taken the elements a bit further, chewed them longer before releasing them? At least that’s how it seems. The culvert as orifice, as passage, as womb. Birth, death. Water, rain, semen. The startling, effective statements: “i have borrowed myself” and “i have progressed too far forward in raising murmurs to roars” are two that come to mind. Had I not already been reading your work, this poem would have caught my attention. It’s a marvel.

    1. what a pleasant start to the day a message from Robert Okaji is. i think your reading was exact: for these longer poems i am aware that length can lose you a reader, so there has to be ‘meandering’ & must be fully ‘developed’. it takes me two weeks to a month before i can say ‘done!’.
      you have given me a phrase i will be using from now ‘effective statements’ , for those lines that seem to come from somewhere unique to the poet’s individual experience. i think that is something we share. not all poets do that. i find it difficult to express what it is about a poet who writes those ‘effective statements’ akin to something like Hart Crane’s ‘And so it was i entered the broken world / To trace the visionary company of love… these kinds of lines, if they land, are the kind of lines that can goose pimples skin. that is really my intention. i don’t know if i land those pimples even 1 % of the time, but i soldier on with my effort. much obliged for your valuable opinion.

      1. robert okaji says:

        I find those types of lines can be crucial to a poem’s transitional state – if used properly they propel the reader further. And yes, when they land they goose pimple the skin. You definitely produced some here.

      2. what do you think it means that lines like those have that effect upon a person. or put better, what do attribute as their source or even origin? i understand we are in difficult waters, but i’d be interested if you have any hypotheses.

      3. robert okaji says:

        I believe they’re the true heart of the poem, that when I produce them, they emerge from the subconscious, usually whole, often bewildering. I seldom question how they arrived and what they might mean, and in subsequent revisions whittle away the rest of the poem to better fit with them, of course not in any direct or linear manner.

      4. a journey to the heart of the Okaji-process ladies & gentleman.

        they are certainly bewildering & i can’t find any other source but a subjective one. there is nothing clinical about them. i do on the other hand seek to process some meaning for them, or search for some correlation with a feeling or image, not always, but if the feeling takes me somewhere, say, the core of an image as metaphor for something, as with culvert, i’ll probe the subconscious for more, like a greedy child who isn’t content with just ice cream round their mouth, they want chocolate on their fingers too.

  2. robert okaji says:

    The truth is, for me, these lines must spring forth intact. I can’t produce them at will. They just occur as part of the process. Whenever I’ve attempted to consiously fabricate such lines, they’ve failed miserably – bombastic, flaccid, you name it, but bad. An example, I suppose, of the dichotomy between art and craft. So much of what I do with a poem is deliberate, is craft. But these lines are born.

    1. i seldom change that birthed line, perhaps a minor nudge, but as you say they come intact. the details around them & the editing it takes to regulate flow & substance is the craft, but without those birthed lines, when i step back & look at a poem, i can’t help but feel it is lacking. is your editing process long? mine is fidgety & seems to never end.

      1. robert okaji says:

        Sometimes the process is very long – I’ve worked on some pieces for years. Others seem to complete themselves quickly. I don’t know why or how this is.

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