Dead Rose at 5 Points Local, Harper & Okaji Collaborate

Dead Rose at 5 pts local by Robert okaji

The first three days of November are set aside in many cultures as days to remember and celebrate the lives of the dead.  We call it Dia de los muertos, a celebration that has its roots in Aztec tradition and is celebrated widely in Mexico.

Those days begin today and it just so happens that today, I decided to post a poem that’s been sitting in my inbox for weeks waiting for time, for inclination, for inspiration.  It wasn’t until I began reading the poem again, that I realized how it resonates with today’s celebrations.

Dead Rose at 5 Points Local  begins:

she waits
for the dead to speak
of last week’s sweetness—…

The poem, a collaboration between poets Stephanie L. Harper and Robert Okaji is a montage of nostalgic images that point to loss:  of love, of the way,

…and the faint honey
of unrealized hope….

Within its lines, delicious internal rhyme and mystery pull us close, close as a

touching her lips…


ofrenda by David Leonardo Mendez via CC

Before I read, I lit candles and incense, set my mother’s and father’s images on my altar, wrote prayers and placed them in my burning bowl, spent time outside, sobbing for my own losses and the losses of others, the monarchs still hovering over the sage.

How often we taste

…the cool
tang of [some] demurring

&, no matter how sad or full our lives, our loves have been, we find

…the undiminished
river, its waters flowing
in every possible
direction, away.

Read  Dead Rose at 5 Points Local in its entirety here.

The most interesting thing about this poem is this:

First, it was written by two poets as a collaboration!  That two poets can do this so successfully is quite a phenomenon I think.  Kudos!!

Secondly, it was written in response to a found prompt:  the actual roses on the table at the San Antonio restaurant 5 Points Local where the three of us sat having coffee and delicious gluten free carrot cake this summer during the Gemini Ink writer’s conference.  When we noted that the roses had faded and dried, I said:  Dead roses at five points local.  There’s a prompt for you!

Robert snapped the shot you see at the top of this post and they agreed to write a poem.  How much fun is that?  AND, it’s not the first time these two have collaborated.

When Robert released his chapbook, From Every Moment A Second (Finishing Line Press, 2017), Stephanie created the cover art for the book!  Take a look:

Cover_Okaji from every moment a second

Both Pushcart Prize nominee’s, the poets are published widely, each with multiple chapbooks.  Both poets work is also forthcoming in The Larger Geometry:  poems for peace (forthcoming from peaceCENTERbooks, Nov. 2018)

Find more of Robert’s work on his blog, O At the Edges

Find more about Stephanie and read her chapbook, This Being Done (Finishing Line Press), here.

images:  1) Robert Okaji, 2) ofrenda, used with permission of the artist, David Leonardo Mendez via Creative Commons.  Some Rights reserved; 3) Stephanie Harper
d. ellis phelps is the author of this blog and of the novel, Making Room for George (Moon Shadow Sanctuary Press, 2016).




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