Thursday, October 1, 2009


Here are today's contributions to Part III of the infamous Takaaki poem. Pennies are beginning to drop in my imagination--all over the place. I think this poem maybe be getting easier to write. It is very much a rough draft, one that I will have to go through and re-work top to bottom when it is done, but I am feeling better about it today than I have felt for weeks.

As I did yesterday, I reprint the concluding stanza from Part II for context.


Slowly shut the faucet off. He dried
His swollen fingertips on a dishtowel
With “Thanksgiving” printed on one side,
A turkey, goose—some kind of cooked, brown fowl—
Emblazoned on the other. He withdrew
Another cigarette. (There were just two,
I noticed, left inside Doraemon.)
“Are we still playing games or are we done?”
I left when he invited me to go—
Which is not to say that I objected:
I understood. I should have expected
This. Nagasaki went too far. To show
How bad I felt, I called him to surrender,
Unconditionally, the 7th of December.

Part III

Standing on the twenty-seventh floor
I closed my clamshell phone: eight-thirty.
I pressed the buzzer firmly—prepared for
Another argument—emergency
Chrysanthemums and Dunkin’ Donuts
Ready for Takaaki. Though he was
Bound to be annoyed that I was late,
I hoped the Martians might be willing to wait
Two hours and obliterate New York
At ten-fifteen instead of eight-fifteen.
Aliens are notoriously keen
On sticking to their schedules. They work
Very hard on planning their invasions,
Rarely sleeping, even on vacations.

I pressed the buzzer harder, wondering
What on Earth was taking him so long
To answer the door, my mind wandering
Toward catastrophe: something’s wrong.
Mysterious music swelled somwhere,
A fishy odor (haddock) filled the air;
I heard the elevator softly ding,
And gave the buzzer a one minute ring,
The tip of my thumb glowing bony white.
Frustrated by my absence, had he gone
Off to face the Martians all alone?
An angry rectangle of silver light
Dispelled my darkest fears. As it hap-
Pend, I’d disturbed somebody’s nap.

Takaaki blinked at my chrysanthemums
As if I handed him preserved bullfrogs
Retrieved from one those great pickle drums
For sale in scientific catalogs
To high school bio-teachers—for dissection:
Formaldehyde free for your protection,
The ads italicize for emphasis.
Takaaki offered me a ghostly kiss
Which missed my lips entirely. “Victims
Of terrible neglect. They looked less sick
Sticking out of that black plastic
Bucket at the bodega. Cut the stems
And water them, they should perk up,” I said.
“Chrysanthemums are given to the dead

By people in Japan,” Takaaki
Murmured, unromatically, I thought…

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