We sat in the small boat,
the motor still, drifting downstream,
our lines in the water, the bobbers
dancing in the morning breeze.
He smiled, proud that we were
doing this together, he who knew
less about fishing than I, his son,
and I knowing next to nothing.
I kept casting into the weeds,
hoping they would tangle my
line, free the worm from the hook,
so I couild deplete our supply,
and we could return home
proud to have tried, successful
in not harming the fish, but
able to say we were fishermen.
Ice, he said, is clearly an invention
of Satan, the ice cube a scaled down
version of that corner of hell of which
no one ever speaks, so little known.
And stop and think, we got by well
for eons without a cube of ice, unless
with blade we chipped it from
a nearby glacier or left water out
in the dead of winter, which never
worked all that well in much of the world.
Whiskey, that was one of our best
innovations, one of which we are
rightfully proud, one which we
have practiced for untold generations.
We’ve been sipping it and drinking it
from the word go, and each culture
has come up with its own version,
and it is only recently that the devil
gave us the means of denigrating
one of God’s greatest gifts to us.
God, mother told us, prefers things
neat, as they were intended, so clearly
ice is the Devil’s work. Turn away!
He is fond of the name Alejandro Carlos
Ernesto Rodrigo Guttierez. The fact is
he loves the name. He knows it has
a certain nobility to it. It embodies and
conveys strength and character. It is a source
of pride and great satisfaction. The name
makes him taller, bolder. There is so much
in a name, that name in particular. “Vinny,”
his mother shouts, “Vincenzo Balducci, come
down here and take the trash out, your
chores come first around here young man.
He is not at all fond of the name Vincenzo.
From my window
on the twenty-sixth floor
they appear as so many
blue roofs, arranged
in small villages in
Shinjuku-Chuo Park below.
At 6:30 in the morning
many older Japanese gather
in sweater vests and hats
despite the humidity to
perform the tai chi ritual.
Nearby hands and feet
emerge from blue tarp
tents crammed with all
manner of belongings.
From a nearby tree a young
man reaches for a shirt left to
dry overnight, a young women
crouches by the fountain
brushing her teeth, another
older man carefully shaving
to bare the last vestige of pride.
They go about lives, one
cutting hair, an old office chair
his salon, another stands over
a pot on a steel drum stove
scooping tea for those who want.
He pauses, as I bow slightly
and he returns the gesture
with a smile.