How to Write a Poem

How to Write a Poem

by Robert Okaji

Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up

✧ ✦ ✧

the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through

✧ ✦ ✧

curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read

✧ ✦ ✧

the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you

✧ ✦ ✧

need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first

✧ ✦ ✧

gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,

✧ ✦ ✧

but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create

✧ ✦ ✧

and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing with the radio.

✧ ✦ ✧

Always. Turn around instead of right. Deny ambition.
Remember the freckles on your first love’s left breast.

✧ ✦ ✧

There are no one-way streets. Appreciate the fragrance
of fresh dog shit while scraping it from the boot’s sole.

✧ ✦ ✧

Steal, don’t borrow. Murder your darlings and don’t get
caught. Know nothing, but know it well. Speak softly

✧ ✦ ✧

and thank the grocery store clerk for wishing you
a nice day even if she didn’t mean it. Then mow the grass,

✧ ✦ ✧

grill vegetables, eat, laugh, wash dishes, talk, bathe,
kiss loved ones, sleep, dream, wake. Do it all again.



One thought on “How to Write a Poem

  1. One could say that Okaji is describing how to live, as much as how to write a poem–or one could say that he’s suggesting that the way to write poetry is to live fully. And that is certainly one way to go. But he left out drinking–and most poets find the occasional snort incredibly helpful. Still, a fun poem!

    Liked by 1 person

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