There was a time
until, once again home,
you have hundreds
of prayers unanswered.
It is stall after stall
of tomates de Provence, choux
wishing to be kale, peches, small
and barely containing their juice.
Courgettes beckon, pommes de terre
call out their aerieal cousins, haricots
quietly suggest a citron aussi.
Walking along the boulevard
a tourist obviously,
without bags or cart,
I get polite nods that say
me ignoring you isn’t personal
it’s merely financial, pardonnez-moi.
Tonight in my dreams, I will
with flash of Wusthoff, be in my kitchen
pulling my morning’s purchases from my bag,
the meal coming together before me,
to the amazement of my wife and friends.
“It’s nothing,” I will say, “juste le matin
dans la marché de Nice,
pour vous, simplement.
A solitary lentil
wrapped in its sauce mantle,
having escaped the fork
for the duration of the meal,
stares up at me, perhaps defiantly
my wife suspects it is merely
bored at having been moved around so.
I stare back at it in what I hope
is my most threatening look
as the waiter hovers by the bar
watching us both, waiting
for my fork to come to rest on the plate,
the universal sign his tip
is then immediately impending.
our stares go on several minutes
(until my wife finishes her meal)
and I shrug, say to the lentil
“I’m in a compassionate mood, I
let you live!” And place my fork down.
The waiter swoops in and carries
both plate and pardoned legume
to the dishwasher in the kitchen.
Sitting on the fourth shelf
from the top, in the second rank
of bookcases in my office
is a somewhat worn copy
Dylan Thomas is “Portrait
of the Artist as a Young Dog.”
I can’t admit to ever having read it,
or an ability to now recall if I did,
but I know I’ve had several young dogs
in my 66 years, but none
were particularly artistic;
but perhaps I set too high a standard
as they did seem to treat
the white tiles in the foyer
of my parents suburban home
as a canvas on rainy spring days,
very much to my mother’s dismay.
I am swimming strongly, easily
my strokes powerful, gliding
over the waves that seemed to collapse beneath me.
The water is surprisingly warm
not the frigidity I expected, more
like a now tepid tub, but left too long.
I can glance up and see the other side
and it is approaching rapidly.
This will be over too soon, I fear
all of the preparation and doubt
falling away as I step onto the shore.
I no longer see why swimming
this Channel is such an accomplishment,
it seems almost pedestrian, like
making it across the above ground pool
that killed a circle of my parents lawn
when I was a child, but things do always
end up being far easier in my dreams.
I am pressed into a seat
that would conform only
to the body of some alien creature,
or so it seems, for hours
into a flight that increasingly
seems eternal, particularly for the baby
two rows back, who, like me
would much rather be anywhere else.
The crew dims the cabin lights
the universal indicator of “Don’t
think of bothering us, we fed you
and will give you a snack in the morning,
only if you behave, so
off to sleep with you all.”
As my back and neck rebel, I
remind myself it could be far worse,
the food poisoned, perhaps, not
merely inedible, for this, despite
appearances, is only the second ring of hell.
As a child I was quite adept
folding sheets of newspaper
into paper hats and paper boats.
The boats immediately took on water,
and sank like the sodden masses
I made them to be, but I could wear
the hats for hours, until my mother
had to scrub my forehead
to get off the printer’s ink.
You might think I would consider
becoming a reporter or journalist
given my penchant for newsprint,
but I instead became a Buddhist
because I do love folding things
over and over and over again
kirigami requires the use
of scissors, which my mother prohibited.