Coco Teaches Me Korean and Chinese

 

two_boots

At midnight, we walk
the happy, drunken ether
where “don’t you want to go
down like some junkie cosmonaut”
is the most beautiful poetry
and the blue strobe lights
of a parking lot cabbie
arrest make a perverse
carnival.

Thank God for 3:30
AM pizza joints.

Thank Buddha
for friends who talk
over the alcohol din
of cowboy boots
and hot pants.

Thank Ganesh
for milkshakes
with rum
and Kahlua.

Thank Coco
for teaching me
Korean and Chinese
as she digs an oiled knee
into my back.

Mannaseo bangap
samnida. Xie xie.
Would you like
some water?

 

Katie, Who Finishes her Name with a Tumbled Heart

beer

One,
flat seven,
four,
one.

The progression always draws me in,
even if it’s a neo-country number
that’ll leave me empty with lyrics
I’ll forget as soon as Katie, who
finishes her name with a tumbled
heart, serves me my last beer
and orange slice.

Happy birthday; it’s Reunification Day,
it’s the eve of the anniversary of my father
getting one boot shined in a village
called Phu Hoa Dong, where 45 years
later I smelled rain between incense breaths.

So, yo, chai yo, kanpai and na zdravi
with my orange slice to the night behind
the wall of televisions over my head
on the way to the “Stand 2 Pee.”

“The wings are good.” That’s what
they always say about places with
midriff and hot pants wait staff.
Actually, the wings are good
and Katie with the sideways heart
is nice, even when I order
the girl-sized beer.

I wonder if she
notices the movements
of the songs she hears every shift.

One, five, four, one—that’s a change
that floats me over river scenes
and lands me in firefly fields.
“Come on Down to my Boat” was
one from Every Mother’s Son, the same
year I became a mother’s son.

Let’s make a movie with a soundtrack
of nothing but songs that move the same.
We’ll watch the faces of the leaving audience
after the last scene, a lingering shot of a sad,
drunken orange slice who always falls
for flat sevens and tumbled hearts.

Sake Shots: Words in Progress – Untitled

“I don’t dream.”

“Sure you do.”

The man was thin with subtle, occasional lines of grey in his combed-over, black hair. His face was dark and starting to crack, perhaps from standing outside much of day. He didn’t look at me when he corrected me, but just continued to stare into the street.

“Everybody dreams. You just don’t remember.” He cut his eyes at me for a second. “Why did you tell me this?”

“Because you’re the only other person standing at this corner.”
“I was here first.”

“Can’t we share the corner?”

He nodded and followed a passing cyclo with his eyes. A schoolgirl in an ao dai rolled her bicycle over his toes and he didn’t flinch.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

“I enjoy the traffic. All the motorcycles with their headlights at dusk and ladies sidesaddle. It’s like a chrome and rubber carousel. I like the neon, too. The neon’s best at dusk.”

“You are strange, my friend.”

Mark Sandman Collapses on Stage or the Transfiguration of the New Cupid

Valentine’s shots all around. Pair off; the drinks
are pink and pretty and so were you in the blue
glow of emergency phone boxes lined up
like a carnival midway waiting for me to lose
everything for one double-sax bass slide
moment next to you.

We could’ve danced
in that parking lot like we
should’ve danced at the Terrace
Theater back in ’94 as Sandman
leaned into his bullet mic, transmitting
electric whiskey sapphire truth into
the streets of Austin.

The room was hot for March,
but nothing like Palestrina in ’99.
We might have danced there, too,
until we heard the two-string Premiere hit the stage,
shaking loose our near kiss with a rumble
as we looked up to see his feedback departure.

But we would never dance in this room
where the piano chords have an urgency,
like crying. “Where are you going? Where
are you going?”

The bass walks
the backwards walk of running
toward someone leaving,
someone gone long enough
to be a sepia thought.

The Korean sushi chef smiles
as I give a thumbs up. The sashimi is good
but the bass could lose a string or two.

Kissing Long in the Cake House

Last night, I dreamed of sex with you
again, the same as I have for years; not
as often as the collapsed and tangled bridge
dreams, but enough that I remember.

We were at someone’s house, decorated
like a birthday cake; upstairs room on a fondant
bed, a mirror hanging over where I saw the us
we were, the us we’ve never been.

The most we’ve ever touched in waking,
sober moments was across dinner, your
fingers pressed into mine. “Feel how cold
my hands are,” you had said.

The only time your hair has fallen
over your eyes for me
was outside the Turkish restaurant; you
were the color in a gray scene,
leaning against your car as a prodigal
wind from a distant hurricane
nearly took you from me.

I can’t recall the chill of your palms;
I’ve lost the parking lot conversation.
But the way we kissed long in the cake
house leaves me as thirsty at waking
as the first hour of a day-long hangover.

And the lingering ache is there, always
in 6/8 and fading as slowly as a tattooed
reflection of tequila strangers at another
table, salty lips and eyes crossed from faces
as close as yours was to mine in a frosting
white room.

I’ll feel how beautiful
you were for days.

In every dream, there’s at least one tender
moment. I suppose that’s some kind
of Valentine; not as red and bright
as a drugstore aisle, but with a candle
lamp’s flicker of sugar, pain and commerce.

Eucharist

The communion bread, dipped in grape juice
and after skipping dinner, is as sweet
as her kiss was at the asphalt’s edge of her
grandmother’s August driveway.

I swallow as the hiss and piano
from a cassette she mailed to me in the fall
play over the memory, but even an adolescent
music box rendition of “The Hands of Time”
is better suited for dying
football player scenes.

There was no soundtrack for our moment, nothing
but the pounding of my heart and perhaps a satisfied
sigh from her older cousin who, with her dark ringlets
and high school curves, had as much of my attention
a few feet down the drive, smiling at us after she
had guaranteed the moment with a sisterly nudge.

I want to take another piece of bread, soak
it and savor it as I walk back to my chair,
before the music and Eucharist end.

Instead, I try to remember the taste.