OH, REALLY?

The box said all natural.
That alone was nothing unusual,
but it was on tomatoes.
How, he wondered, could tomatoes
but unnatural, or worse still
partially natural, partially not.
Had they cloned the tomato?
Would cloning make it unnatural,
and if so, how could you tell it
from the original which was natural?
And these weren’t organic.
He began to wonder how tomatoes
could be inorganic.
Wouldn’t they cease to be tomatoes?
It was all too confusing
and he was hungry
but all he had was tomatoes
and those he could no longer trust.

ASKED AND ANSWERED

This morning I made the mistake
of asking where the coffee beans were.
My spouse didn’t hear me, but Siri
offered her opinion, leaning toward Guatemala.
That didn’t set well with Alexa
who said they were either in the cabinet
over the stove, of in Papua New Guinea,
since she prefers lower acidic coffee.
Probably unsurprising, but Siri did
not take well to being corrected,
and got into it with Alexa, and I
was left trying to interject, being ignored.
I asked the Google Voice Assistant to intercede,
but it only wanted to know which voice
I wanted it to speak with, and
then froze completely awaiting my answer.

CHECKOUT LINE

Time seems frozen in the checkout line
stuck between the Mars bars
and the tabloids, you wonder
how Liz could survive a total body
liposuction, and further details of how
OJ killed in a moment of lust.
The old woman in front rummages
in her change purse certain she has
the eighty seven cents, the coins
lost in a blue haze reflected off her hair.
Two aisles over the young mother
her jaw clenched in frustration
keeps putting the life savers back
on the shelf as her child, fidgeting
in the cart grabs another roll, until
she shouts and slaps his hand.
His cry draws stares from all and she
stares at the floor as he grabs
a Three Musketeers and Certs.
A man in the express line swears
that the apples were marked 89 cents
and wants to see the manager
who calmly explains that Granny Smiths
are a dollar twenty nine and only small
Macintoshes are on sale this week.
He puts the bag on the scale
and stalks out of the store.
I would shift to the express lane
but I have 16 items and must
continue to wait and wonder
how many incisions it would take
for a full body liposuction.


Previously appeared in Kimera: A Journal of Fine Writing, Vol. 3, No.2, 1998 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008

E-MOTION

 She says she is angry and he finds that easy to understand.  He as given up on anger, he finds it too exhausting and ultimately of such little value he has moved permanently on to cynicism and disdain.  She says she finds little benefit in either, and having a certain amount of faith gives her the only premise she has found for moral superiority.  He claims he has never felt to superior to anyone, and he knows it is a lie when he says it, for he feels superior to most, except her, for he fears that would anger her.  He has felt the passion and heat of her anger an it is not a place he wants to be, but he cannot be away from her for any length of time or he finds his cynicism replaced by longing and that borders on real emotion, which is what he most dreads.  Well that, and Brussels sprouts with cheese. Almost any cheese; the thought of loss of love, and under cooked asparagus.

WRISTING

I used to think
that the key to a great crepe
was all in the wrist.
That was before my wrist was fused
by a doctor who explained
that no motion was better
than endless pain where motion
ceased to practically matter.
Now I realize that the forearm
is capable of so much more
that that for which it is given
credit, that the elbow is a joint
underappreciated, and that when
the crepe slides off the pan
and onto the plate,
the forearm can take a silent bow,
giving a wink to the crepe pan
for its nominal contribution
to the effort lying on the plate.

ANGRY, BUT ONLY A LITTLE

You want it spicy, but just so that
the tongue remembers it a moment
after the mouth has moved on, a lingering
sense of having been present.
It should be a mantilla, a shawl,
not the blanket some claim, gently
caressing, lighting up the plate.
Its host, freshly from the rollers,
was born for this moment,
and welcomes its friend, and
the teeth of its visitors, accompanied
by the grapes carefully pressed
and aged for this occasion.
The tomatoes sigh as the last
of the arrabiatta is consumed
and evening slips quietly into dreams.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

It is Independence Day in Seoul
and I am sitting in my room
in the Ritz Carlton looking
out over closed shops, traffic
moving along the streets
watching CNN and AFKN.
The shops of Namdaemun
are closed, you can walk
the small alleys as vendors
hawk jeans with mis-sewn
Guess labels and T-shirts
from the University of Michigan.
Pietros is crowded
with Koreans waiting on plates
of spaghetti with clams
and shoyu sauce.
A group of police
in starched gray uniforms
nods as we pass, then stare
at thin plumes of black smoke
rising into charcoal clouds
northwest over Yonsei University,
they lift their riot shields
and long black batons
and briskly walk onto the bus
to quell the traitors
for whom unification
must be more than a dream.
Lotte World is silent
in the summer heat.