Category Archives: Karen Ocana

SPECIES-EUPHORIA

SPECIES EUPHORIA

Karen Ocana

                                                                                                                                                           

I am having dinner with a goldfish.

It is not a dream, my eyes are open,

the fish is looking at me, swirling

   solicitous of my solitude.

                                                                                                                                                         

It seemed rude to refuse the waiter

approaching with the fish in a bowl, 

as if I were some character in a

   story book. 

                                                                                                                                                      

The fish sizes up my curries and naan,

I eyeball its buoyant swishes,

our body language slides into

   complicated complicity.

                                                                                                                                                          

I raise my fork 

and something spasms

            a flash of molten gold rises

                        light cascades in the fish’s wake, 

            an improbable message

making its escape.

INVOLUTION

INVOLUTION

Karen Ocana

A Purolator truck drives by the living room window 

as you listen to Sam Rivers’ Involution and expect a parcel, 

expect it to contain a dehumidifier.  UV index reads 9/10 

and a heat warning is in effect.  Blinds are drawn, windows shut  

and you’ve been watching the drama of leaves 

fluttering in the breeze 

reflected on the grey wall 

as you work out 

how to translate 

certain key phrases.

You’re waiting for the delivery of a parcel, a dehumidifier 

and your dress is magenta, clinging to your damp skin 

as you translate certain key phrases 

in the book you find impossible to finish,  

the phrase about obsessively tracing hands 

across the new and old decomposing walls 

sitting still in the white space of a room 

listening obsessively to the rollicking riffs 

of Rivers’ Involution.

Key phrases in the evolution of the tenor saxophone, 

subtracting oneself from death 

like engraving in white-on-black 

the risk of a window. 

Camera obscura.

            How do we see, exactly?  

Listen.

            Heat rises from her middle like frothy magenta foam 

on a strawberry milkshake, and she dreams 

of fording a river on a steamy night in June,

her blue pencil scrolls, pacing, spacing the words, 

the meanings trailing with the ease of jazzic fluidity, 

horns, percussion, heat, voices, 

the apparent free flow of highly stylized phrases

those of the conversation

those of the hushed 

lush conversation 

when you tell me the events,  the dates,  the places,   the spaces 

you last heard music like this.

            The record ends in the shimmering shade 

            of the living room where the sun lingers 

            like the risk of a door opening onto the street 

            where a crowd rears its head and no one hears 

            the roar of the rivers that scream underground 

            day in day out, as potholes creak

            under the weight of ambulances.

HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

HOW TO QUIT SMOKING

Karen Ocana

                                                                                                                                                                            Dear one, 

Have you ever wondered which came first,

the poem or the letter? 

                                                                                                                                                                            I cycle to the canal to meet you —

you, who still smoke half a packet a day;

(We met at a poetry reading five years ago

among books and fine speakers with so much to say.)

                                                                                                                                                                            We saunter and speak but rarely in iambics

more rarely still in swishy hexameters

at best in blank verse, citing common parame-

ters, our aches and our nagging pains emblems 

of the strained life we lead in a metropolis,

with deaths in the thousands from

this novel coronavirus;

How the people we love we don’t see anymore

How friends have left and we’re tempted to flee

How chain-smoking was only recently banished

When ‘twas once the source of grace notes such as 

            these:

                                                                                                                                                                             Du feu s’il-vous-plait

             Haben Sie Feuer, bitte

                        Baby won’t you light my, um, cigarette?

                                                                                                                                                                             A writer we both admire once wrote

A poem called How to Quit Smoking

Where Felicity, smitten with Fred

Punches Bob in the gob, I’m just joking.

                                                                                                                                                                            It’s a poem wherein, as you know, the rhythm flows along quite unencumbered by rhyme scheme, in no way or shape bending to preconceived pattern, balanced on the triple knife edge of pathos, irony and delirium, along which it tiptoes acrobatically, following lyric chords strung invisibly like tight-ropes within our cerebral cortex, upon which stories of love and loss leap and pirouette…

                                                                                                                                                                            leaving me breathless,

              speechless

with visions of a simile

                          (Go ahead and blame the pox of romantic cigarette advertisements if you will)

                                                                                                                                                                          “… like the smoky whorls issuing from the rosebud of your dreamy lips…”