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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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