Letter from Kansas
by Robert Okaji
Driving the stretch to Junction City,
I look for familiar faces in the cars
we pass, but see only strange grasses
gliding by. Three weeks ago
I slept on a stone-littered hilltop
overlooking the Bay of Naples.
Now the prairie laps at our front door.
A mile from the house two corralled bison
munch dull hay thrown daily
from a truck’s flat bed, and past that
the Discount Center’s sign
spells America. What I wouldn’t give
for a deep draught of Pozzuoli’s
summer stench and the strong
yellow wine that Michele’s father
makes. We mixed it with the gardener’s
red, creating our own bouquet,
remember? And here they say
I’m too young to buy beer and wine.
Without them the food is flavorless,
like the single language spoken.
I understand it all,
and miss the difficulty. Maybe Texas
will be better. Ci vediamo. Bob
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My return to the U.S. after attending high school in Italy was, well, interesting. Junction City, Kansas was definitely not bella Napoli. This poem came from that experience, albeit a few years later, and was published in the mid-80s in the Allegheny Review, a national journal of undergraduate creative writing. It doesn’t resemble today’s work much, but I think the kid who wrote it still exists. Somewhere.
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 two micro-chapbooks published by the Origami Poems Project, and a mini-digital chapbook, Interval’s Night (Platypus Press, 2016). His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Shantih, Posit, The High Window, Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art, riverSedge, Eclectica and elsewhere. Visit his blog, O at the Edges, at robertokaji.com.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me with my Italian guitar, purchased at age 17. The instrument has aged much better…