Saturday, April 16, 2011

Takaaki, Part I

Since it is a dismally gray and rainy afternoon here in New York, I thought I would post another portion of my epic poem Takaaki, one which also takes place in the rain.

The whole poem is available in the current edition of the
Raintown Review along with some of the finest poems and essays you are likely to find in any literary journal published anywhere.

I hope you like it!

Takaaki, Part I

“Paint me a pair of bold anfractuous rocks
set somewhere in the Cyclades—a spot
totally removed from Time. No clocks.”
I’d settle for a sunny August, hot
enough to melt an Erlenmeyer flask.
We could emerge from a cool underpass,
catch a guitar weeping, an old song,
a crowd of children shrieking, a Great Lawn
surrounding people with some place to be
hurrying to different destinations.
“Who comes to Central Park on their vacations?”
I would demand of the demented bee
circling a can of garbage going sour.
Surely, God would not begrudge an hour

of timelessness unto humanity—
his representatives on Earth. He must
have made us and forgotten us. Maybe.
How else would you explain the missing bus,
the leaky awning, and the pouring rain,
this longing to be elsewhere? Hence, the plane
landing on a distant isle in Greece—
ahead of schedule—look—the Cyclades—
bathed in Hellenic blue. And far below—
almost invisible on the white beach—
there is a tempting red umbrella which
I am convinced belongs to me. Although,
it could be a reflection from the ad—
for Travelers Insurance—that is bad-

ly flirting with me from across the street.
A fault in one of its florescent lights.
Flutter. Flicker. Blackout. And repeat—
ad infinitum. How I hate these nights!
These vicious, tantalizing sights! To
say I hate New York would not be true.
We have a strange relationship, I’d say.
We need each other, sort of, in the way
a sad, sadistic cop requires a good
(but rather stupid) buddy on the force
to buy Budwiesers for him, post-divorce,
hear how he has wrecked his life. Ours would
make a fine, redemptive movie script,
down to the last, cheesy tortilla chip.

For now, a cone of pink chrysanthemums—
to match the dozen frosted donuts I
picked up from Dunkin’ for dessert—some
blocks back, before Zeus unzipped the sky—
will join our little shopping list. “How
much are these flowers,” I ask the fellow
sweeping up the petals, thorns and leaves
he has been pruning. “Not the roses—these,”
I point sharply at the mums again.
the chalkboard with the prices on it had
suffered like my patience from the mad
downpour. Slowly a young Mexican
lifts five green fingers in front of his face—
his exhausted face. What a place

to hide such beauty. “Yes, I’ll take those, thanks,”
I mutter roughly, with embarrassment,
pulling out a wet ten, with two yanks,
sending a quarter rolling down pavement
to gutter. Pirouetting on the drain,
it spins to rest, shining in the rain
atop a flattened cup—a blue pancake—
supporting crooked letters that I make
out to read, ‘Happy To Serve You.’
Exactly who is happy to be serving
whom lies beyond my powers of observing
because of how the cup is crushed. In lieu
of other parties with a claim to it,
I give green fingers a five-dollar tip,

go retrieve my quarter from the cup,
before somebody else does. In this town,
some moments are too precious to give up.
A lucky coin can turn your life around
like that: ‘Fortune rota volvitur,’
rolling to the sewer your last quarter,
while on ‘The Wheel of Fortune’ someone spins
above an orange pyramid. Who wins?
Who cares? I have my quarter and I’m glad.
The best ten dollars that was ever spent
by any man beneath the Firmament.
Do I exaggerate? Perhaps a tad.
But just a tad. That magic emerald hand
has turned ‘The Wheel’ into a salsa band

by changing channels. How I love TV!
Think of all the money that we could
save on drugs and psychotherapy
if human hearts came with remotes! A mood
is altered just by tapping on your nose,
fine-tuned further peeling off damp clothes,
then fiddling a minute with a nipple.
A politician still might come and cripple
sex, now and then, Monday night football
pre-empt some dreary real-life drama
with dancing linebackers, or a bomber
blowing up an airplane force us all
to interview a few shocked families.
But we could always turn off our TVs—

like that. Returning richer from the gutter,
I collect my donuts and cut flowers.
It seems the thunderstorm’s begun to splutter—
which I attribute to my quarter’s powers,
patting the faint circle on my thigh
embossed by my good luck. I decide
there is no point in waiting. I am wet.
I can’t get any wetter now. I bet
the guy who drives that bus is named Godot.
Assuming this, and better weather later,
we say goodbye to Jorge’s cramped bodega.
I need to meet Takaaki for a show—
War of the Worlds—at quarter after eight.
Taka-chan will shoot me if I’m late.

Takaaki entered my life as a leopard
print belt being unbuckled at the Y.
Until that Tuesday, we exchanged no word
apart from the prim, 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 a long, luxurious lather blur
the fragile 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.

Mesmerized by how that feline belt
crept through the four tight loops above his rear,
my mind filled with four-letter words, spelt,
‘Don’t ruin your Moon trip.’ Though sincere—
poetic even—this injunction—it
does not, I think, seem quite appropriate.
We’re not inside a NASA locker room—
pristine and clean and white. We’re in a tomb
below the ground on 47th Street,
surrounded by abandoned towels so stiff,
so stained with history, they’ve entered myth.
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:
shaggy carpets, pant hangers with clips
coated in red rubber, folding doors
with tiny metal doorknobs cast from stainless
steel. But it was none of my business
where, after leaving his seductive waist,
his buckle might intend to hang, how chaste
his companions: if they drink, or stink
of socks and jockstraps, Calvin Klein, or hold
silk stockings with more reverence, or cold
hands in handcuffs, or dead cats. (I think
what one discovers on a closet hook
more eloquent than any tell-all book.)

*Zip* that leopard slyly disappears
around the tan-line of Takaaki’s hips.
My eyes could spend the next ten thousand years
bouncing on his hips. But then my lips,
neglected and forlorn, might turn to dust
before I could express my love. Or lust.
I must not allow a sleazy rhyme
to swallow his humanity. It’s time
to treat the true Takaaki—the sweet face
we’ll sit across from in a steaming bath
in several stanzas—his smile, polite laugh,
how his eyes crinkle closed when I place
my feet in the hot water and I ask,
“Do you prefer my poems or pale ass?”

No comments: