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Tokyo, Mon Amour

He began going out dressed as a girl,
walking at night in busy places,
attending the cinema.

He haunted the Kabuki District
where his happiness was great;
passerby silhouetted against paper
windows, lanterns casting red
and green lights on new snow;
noodle shops under fiery clouds
of steam.

Sometimes he arrived home early,
rouged lip s dulled by singing,
powdered cheeks subdued by rain.

His parties were the best, he sang
in English using a falsetto voice
and pounded an old American
piano making us laugh and beg
for encores.

He often fell drunk on a divan
breathing on an even keel
with my rising cigarette smoke;

the shadow of his kimono sleeve
brushing my knee like the wing
of nomadic birds he fed,
birds exhausted by a long flight
from the Ryūkyū islands where
he too once lived.

All evening I sit mute before
his tea service touching
the pristine gloves he used
to protect his hands from boiling
water; a peacoc k shaped teapot,
sugar bowl and miniature milk
jug curved into a silver bird egg.

Around his chrysanthemum pyre
I set-out his popular still lifes,
14 brushes thin as an eyelash,
and fresh cigarette packs.

Fellow students serve guests
white hot noodles and tell
their favorite story.

The next morning is cowed
and painted in ash tones,
apparitions appear among
speeding motor cars and the
ear-splitting shriek of the
Tokyo express cutting cleanly
like a dessert knife.

I feed his birds,
but they refuse to eat or sing
from their clairvoyant depth.

Last edited by Bernie01, Jun/7/2013, 9:55 pm


Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jun/7/2013, 4:17 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
Katlin Profile
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Re: Tokyo, Mon Amour

Hi Bernie,

This poem works well. The N's voice is believable, and the various narrative strands are seamlessly interwoven with the scene-setting images. This reads very naturally and is artfully done. I like, for example, the way the N uses American slang ("His parties were the best") in a stanza which refers to singing in English while playing an American piano. I love the delicacy and restraint in these lines:

the shadow of his kimono sleeve
brushing my knee

Not his kimono sleeve brushing my knee but only its shadow.

The N never once expresses emotion directly, yet a feeling of love and loss permeate the piece.

I'm really going to have to get nitpicky to come up with any quibbles:

One misspelling: It should be "Sometimes" at the beginning of S3

I wonder if you need "he often borrowed" after "fresh cigarette packs"?

Thanks for posting the youtube link. It's fun to see where other poets get their inspiration.
Jun/7/2013, 7:59 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin

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