FISHERMAN'S WHARF--I talk to Kasia on the phone, she's in rainy
Milwaukee driving south to get out of her too-familiar neighborhood and
she finds a café called The High Five to practice for a math test; near the
restaurant and bowling alley where I met her friends Carolyn and Bonnie. I
don't know what to do without her.
After the kite
fell to the ground,
it had no soul.
Midwestern values, Kasia's friends were skeptical about our age
difference, 12 years, and what a 34 year old man is doing unmarried,
without children? Were they skeptical of the interracial element, me Asian
and she Polish, an anomaly on the streets of Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha?
The unpolished dolls
propped against the corner
are also man and wife
Sun's out, I can lie on the grass. I tell Kasia it's nice out
and I'm just going to sit on this bench in the sun for 2 hours, too lazy to
walk down to North Beach for coffee and book-browsing. I want her a little
envious so she'll feel good about moving to California to be with me. The pigeons
at my feet are picking at grains in the cobblestones.
One pigeon, freak, alone
in the flock, shows it--
brown-white feathered thing.
My editor at AsianWeek wants the Asian American take on pop
culture, which in his mind is the new Ashton Kutcher movie, Guess Who; Sin City,
already reviewed well in the Bay Guardian; the parallel between the Pope's
death and Terri Shiavo. I add things to the list: The Simple Life, Paris Hilton,
Hunter S. Thompson's posthumous collection. People and things associated
with the dominant culture, non-Asian. Make it Asian somehow.
"I don't know if you can do it," the editor says.
the crab is skeptical
about the foot-print.
I'm not sure I see the point; to focus on the culture that's in
the air and everyone's familiar with, but no one bothers to care to have an
opinion about. Why us? What do we have to gain? Will studio executives
reallynotice us just because we put our take on Queen Latifah out there? "Why
aren't more Asian women like Queen Latifah?" the editor said.
"Do we want them to be more like Queen Latifah?" I said.
"I don't know."
Nobody seems to.
at the tip of a huge ship--
Meanwhile the new day job at Evans Research awaits me.
Conducting market research surveys for Starbucks and Wells Fargo. "Who
cares?" the editor would say, a question never asked in a poetry workshop,
where we assume no one will to begin with.
A green willow
droops into the mud,
But in a newspaper, the space a column takes up costs money, and
it has to be balanced against the amount of advertising the paper is pulling
in. The editor has to make projections about how many people will care about
those 500 words in the bottom left corner of the Arts & Entertainment section.
As soon as I picked it up,
I was smiling--
Dolls for sale.
I care, the poet says, and that's enough to justify the project.
That's enough to write a haiku about anything--
Hours of yard work yesterday,
my hands want to cut lush lawn
at Joseph Conrad Square.
I have to cut out of training early, much to the disapproval of
Evans Research. Even if I leave 4 hours earlier than scheduled, I have to
catch a bus across town and walk 8 blocks to SoMarts on Brannan to make it to
Catalina Cariaga's workshop on triangulating narrativity.
the writing paper is a rectangle,
the drawing paper is a square.
My assignment is boring, proficient. I can justify it better in
prose: what would Joan Mitchell do with a triangle? She would take it apart,
make an array of shapes and forms, figures and scenes out of it. No single
point of the triangle would serve as a marker of shape. She would barely keep
you in the frame with a line here, a splash of orange there. Everything else
on the canvas would be shapeless in the conventional sense, but looking closer,
the deliberate construction of structure would appear to the eye.
Plum tree on the river-bank--
falling into water,
Same with my poem, which contains the Pope and Terri Schiavo,
Wuthering Heights, Princess Mononoke, Warsaw, the I Ching, Frank Chin, The
Philippine Building, Sin City, The Moon in Aquarius, all abstracted
together to form a whole composition. Why does that sound better than the
Pigeons and sparrows
The Pope's Sinful Horoscope
"The Pope's health had worsened,"
Smoking, found in an alley, or Wuthering Heights,
Like watching Princess Mononoke in Warsaw,
Just press send before you lose your courage,
Her friend Bonnie encouraged her.
Art can be found, did you read the article
About plus size, fine watches? The I Ching
Drones on about political conflicts,
Homemade furniture, justice, journalists
And what is the symbolism of the #, 4?
Frank Chin said parking tickets tickle,
But who has the money? There should be
Polling done to find out. A guy in the Philippine Building
Does it for a living, catches flicks
Like Sin City: "stark black-and-white,
With shocking bits of color dropped in for emphasis."
Then he lost his job and became a pet-sitter,
But how do you become a star
In the world of pet-sitting, he asked himself?
He was lucky to buy a new t-shirt,
Hocked his knickknacks and sold his hens.
His lungs filled with tar, he pinned his hopes
On some basketball team's pre-playoff record.
He needed to gather up his nets.
The Moon was in Aquarius and he could
Pull in a haul, there's more to his take
Than he thought, he'd read in the horoscope.
"Some contrasted the Pope's passing on his own terms
To the legal and political battle
That surrounded the death of Terri Schiavo."
I wanted to change
the way I grafted the camellia.
KASIA CALLS AGAIN-- from The High Spot in Milwaukee, and I'm
still sitting on the same bench. She tells me about a black leather mini-skirt
and white silk hat with sequins she bought at the vintage store across the
street. Then she went back to The High Five, tried studying more math, got bored
and called. I tell Kasia I'm still sitting in the same spot. She misses me
and loves me. I don't want to move.
A leaf fell, settled
on the patch of lawn
where I thought to sit.