Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 13

Yesterday, as I was juiced, I managed to construct two stanzas instead of my customary one. Today, things have not been so easy. Writing has been astonishingly hard. I left my glasses at Mikey's house last night, so I have been squinting at my screen like Mr. Magoo all day, which has given me a rapacious headache. If this Motrin doesn't work, I may have to skip the gym tonight. Which means I will go home and die.

The phrase "Introibo ad altare dei," from the opening line of today's stanza, was just something that occurred to me this morning on the train. It is part of the Catholic liturgy for the Tridentine Mass, the Mass of the Holy Trinty. It famously occurs in the opening paragraph of James Joyce's Ulysses, when stately, plump Buck Mulligan emerges from the stairhead and lofts the bowl of lather, strop and razor, preparatory to shaving his friend, Stephen Dedalus.

The phrase translates as, "I will go in to the altar of God." What this may suggest in the context of the three languages of the stanza, Takaaki, a steaming carrot and my mouth, I leave to my religious readers to determine.

As usual, today's contribution is appended at the end of the excerpt.

Takaaki entered my life as a leopard
Belt being unbuckled at the Y.
Until that day, we had exchanged no word
Apart from that perfunctory, “Hi,”
One naturally nods when in the shower—
Never letting eyes fall any lower
Than chin, if necessary, collarbone,
Carefully leaving ‘well enough’ alone—
Lest anything unseemly try to blur
The steely line of bubbles separating
Really clean from curious—creating
Questions about conditioners, and whether
Grapefruit is a proper manly scent—
Even in a Thought Experiment.

I was hooked by how that feline belt
Crept through the four tight loops above his rear;
It filled me with four-letter words, which spelt,
“Don’t ruin your Moon trip.” Although sincere—
Poetic even—this injunction—it
Does not, I think, seem quite appropriate.
We’re not inside a NASA locker room:
We’re here—a cave as moldy as the tomb
Where Romeo is scheduled to meet
His honey, when Miss Fortune intervenes,
Cancelling the dancing in those scenes.
I sprinkled fungal powder on my feet,
Discretely. As my fairy dust descended,
I wondered if his buckle was befriended

By anything besides his fingertips.
I could, of course, conceive of other suitors—
A bedroom floor, those pant hangers with clips
Coated in red rubber, folding doors
With tiny metal doorknobs—all of this
I could conceive—nor was it my business
Where, after leaving his seductive waist,
His buckle might intend to hang, how chaste
These new companions, if they drank, or stank
Of soiled underwear, or socks, or hold
Silk stockings with more reverence, or old
Boas, handcuffs, or dead cats. (I thank
The Lord, this morning, when I dressed, I took
A necktie from my closet hook. ) Now, look—

Zip, that leopard softly disappears
Around Takaaki’s narrow, subtle hips.
A poet friend once spent ten thousand years
On hips, neglecting to Chapstick his lips;
So long he labored he dissolved to dust,
Before he could express his love. Or lust.
I trust, the stupid use he made of Time
Will not be copied in your life. Or mine.
With fifty-odd lines written on a waist,
A belt, belt loops, belt buckle, and no ass,
You might suppose your humble Author has
Lost you, Takaaki, and his mind. In case
That’s what you think, permit me now to state,
While you’ve been thinking, we’ve been on a date.

Around a core of elevators set
Twelve tall windows in a concrete sheet
As crumbly as the Parthenon; let
Your panorama start in Brooklyn, greet
The Empire State, behind a candle (where
I sit sweating, in a sticky chair),
While your eye continues travelling
Along the glass, skyscrapers unraveling,
Until the pointy tip of the Chrysler Build-
-ing rises from Lexington Avenue,
Piercing a silver nitrate mist. Now you
Must let this scintillating picture fill
The space before your eyes: that is New York.
Here, I transfix a carrot with a fork.

“Introibo ad altare,” I will say,
While blowing on that steaming vegetable,
Adding, “Totemo oishikatta ne,”
Hoping, after five months, I am able
To tell Takaaki I enjoy his curry
Without entangling my tongue in worry.
“It’s okay,” he shrugs, quietly deferring
My compliments—as always—much preferring
A tilted head, a seated bow, the leaner
Show of manners honored in Japan;
Which seems bizarre to an American
Astonished how a wooden vacuum cleaner
Fashioned from a pair of eight-inch sticks
Picks clean a plate in under two minutes.

No comments: