DRINKING TEA IN KABUL*

Rockets flash briefly
across the chilled sky,
plumes of smoke, ash
carried off
by impending winter.

Over the lintel of the entry
to the Inter-Continental Hotel Chicago,
carved deeply into the marble
Es Salamu Aleikum
staring implacably
through ponderous
brass framed doors
onto the Miracle Mile.
Countless guests
pass below it
unseeing.

My son and I
sit across a small table
spilling bits of tapas
onto the cloth,
laughing lightly
at the young boy
bathed in a puree
of tomato, his shirt
dotted in goat cheese.
My son explains
the inflation of the universe,
gravitational waves
cast off
by coalescing binary
neutron stars.
His words pull me
deeper
into my seat.
We speak somberly
of the jet engine
parked haphazardly
in the Queens gas station
unwilling to mention
265 lives
salted across
the small community.

We embrace
by his door, the few
measured hours run.
He turns to call
his girlfriend,
I turn my collar up
against the November night.

The Red Line train
clatters slowly back
into a sleeping city.
In my room
I brew a cup of Darjeeling.

*”We will drink tea in Kabul tomorrow morning, if God wills it.” – Basir Khan, Northern Alliance Commander, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, 13 November 2001.

First appeared in Hearsay, 2004 and in The Right to Depart, Plain View Press (2008).

GENDER?

So why, pray tell, does my gender
even matter, it isn’t like we will ever.
meet, and let’s face it, there is
a fluidity now which calls binary
thinking absurd, so we’ll go with
whatever you choose, so long
as you realize I am all about
compassion and relieving
the world’s suffering – thought
that might color your opinion
a bit, good you got the yin of it

And let’s talk about the whole
name thing, I mean, sure, it changes
when you change languages, I’m
okay with that, I guess but if
you are going to use me in Japan
why not use my Japanese name,
I am particularly fond of Kannon,
I’m down with Guanyin, used
that one all over Asia, but seriously
do you really think I want to go
around these days as Avalokiteśvara,
I’m centuries old, so show me
A bit more compassion than that.


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