Summer 1966: After France & Remembering Bobby,
Who One Day Would Learn to Multiply and Divide,
Write Love Poems, Define Home, Fight Unfairly and
Live with as Much Gusto as a 7-Year Old. Perhaps.
by Robert Okaji
From left coast to right, or the wide arc between,
which place claimed you? In New York you marveled
at the building’s backs scratched by clouds, and all your
pale cousins in Baltimore spoke strangely and couldn’t fathom
your nuclear family’s private lingo, while the drive to Texas
and its red ants and iced tea blossomed into adventures between
pages in the back seat of the VW bug. By the second week you
learned that Texans sweat as much as the French, and swear even
more, that you couldn’t fight one twin without taking on the other,
sometimes both at once. There was no question of fairness then,
just brotherhood, but the librarian would slip you the choicest
donated fiction, and you played baseball every day in the vacant lot
until sundown called the players home to black and white body
counts and cigarette commercials on the three channels received.
Sometimes you lay in bed under the half-light of the whirring
fan blades, and dreamt of heroes and ornithopters, zebras
and the scent of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. Other nights
you wondered how words could rest so calmly on one page yet
explode off the next, or why a man would climb a tower in Austin
to kill fourteen people when opportunities for mayhem and murder
burgeoned across the sea. Wasn’t living a matter of simple
subtraction? One by one the days parted and you walked through
that dwindling heat, eyes squinting, questions in hand, emerging
fifty years later having suffered additions and division and the
cruelties of love and success, honor and truth, still asking why
and how, home or house, where it went, your shoulders slumping
under the heft of those beautiful, terrible summers stacked high
like so many life-gatherings of unread books awaiting a bonfire.
SOURCE: A version of this titled “Bonjour, Texas” appeared on the blog A Holistic Journey.
IMAGE: Vintage Texas postcard.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Okaji lives in Texas. A self-described military brat, he moved many times over the course of his childhood. He is the author of the chapbooks If Your Matter Could Reform (Dink Press, 2015) and The Circumference of Other, which is included in Ides: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks (Silver Birch Press, 2015), as well as a micro-chapbook, You Break What Falls (Origami Poems Project). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Glass, Hermeneutic Chaos, Panoplyzine, Steel Toe Review, riverSedge, Eclectica, and elsewhere. Visit his blog, O at the Edges, at robertokaji.com.
PHOTO: The author with his Italian guitar, purchased between moves in 1976.