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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The pregnancy of words

The pregnancy of words

by Bob Hicok

Eros scrabbles to rose and rage

to gear or gare, as in Gare du Nord,

where I trained in to Paris from not

smoking pot in Master Mad, I’m sorry,

Amsterdam, with its canals

called grachts and clocks

that bonged my homesick hours

at different times. Which is smite

for you violet types, a flower

that says “love it” if you listen. Me, I do

and don’t feel it matters that evil thrives

in live, that we tinker and smash

everything down to bits and then

try to patch a path back home, it’s our lotto

in life, to have no clue

what a natural disaster is

when that disaster is us. That’s what I love

about the shrug, it says zilch

sans le mouth and becomes

more aerobic the more you admit

the less you know, you know? It’s a jumble

out there, kids, with slips and slides

and elide’s eally ool, depending

what’s lopped off, as in light of   hand

or slight of and, but I better spot

before you pots how sparse

this parsing is. Besides, what can I say

about language other than it’s an anal egg

in need of one glorious u. Words

or swordpick your poisson. Every time

I try to peak into speaking, the bag

of gab to learn what our noodles

are really up to, I get flummoxed

that the tools I use

are the stool I stand on

to see a way in or out. I can’t even tell

if I’m more trapped or rapt,

if meaning’s mean or play’s

a dumb waiter riding numbly

up and down. But have you noticed

read becomes dear

if you ignore the world

as you find it and find it in you

to swirl the word, in the way

solve and loves are the same

bones, different skeletons.

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