Haikus at their best, change somewhere before the last syllable. The classic 5-7-5 syllabic system of the bento box of poetry gives us a moment to pause and breathe in and out with each word like bites of something delicious. Like good poetry, savor it all. Put the fork and knife down politely on your mental plate, indicating it’s fine to remove the china and utensils when you’re through and sit and meditate on it for as long as you’re able. Use a few of its carefully selected delicacies of verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs as your mantra.
Sit with it. Hold it delicately. Turn it over on your tongue a few times but do not swallow any of it until each bite, masticated completely, slides down your throat. Open gifts, as adults, slowly running a finger into the paper of course if someone cared enough to wrap it rather than throwing it in a shiny Mylar wasteful bag with typical tissue paper in blue and orange or some sin on the eyes. Undress the gift with breathless surprise. That’s what good haikus can do for you, too. Make you fall in love at first sight as you unzip them like the dress of a lover you wish to ravage but can only text the words, goodnight my love, knowing weeks or a month might pass before physically holding them again. Kissing the phone – swoosh – the letters through the phone and multiple magical wireless networks send you one moment closer to that soft skin you so crave.
I’m not saying my poetry or my haikus have anything earth shattering to reveal nor am I indicating in the style of sapphic-styled and at first, hand cut delicate pieces of the most delicious fatty tuna with a slight bit of garlic infused olive oil and the tiniest ring of paper thin sliced jalapeño peppers (the smallest I’ve ever seen.) This dish is crafted at my very favorite Japanese restaurant owned by a once Iron Chef of all people, with outposts in Las Vegas in the Hard Rock hotel off the strip on Flamingo drive and in New York City off the east river parkway around mid town. I believe I recall it was in the 50s.
I think that’s where it sits on the corner, but please don’t quote me because I’m not going to google it for good measure since I’m not going any time soon. But I can remember every single delectable bite of fish, white and buttery, fanned out on the plate in a round of taupe skin up to off white beauty, the fat of the blessed fish, egoless and selflessly waiting to have my sticks expertly pick up and drop each slice into my now watering mouth.
That’s how it feels to pick up a poem I know will satisfy only a desire that burns like the embers of the last of a campfire around which sat a group of friends slightly tipsy. Drinking this time junmai daigingo sake, served cold of course, but not too terribly cold. Did you know why hot sake gets served hot? To burn off its impurities. It’s the bottom of the barrel, yet still not wasted, although it’s the heating of the alcohol that makes for the worst headache the next morning. Ordering hot sake shows your lack of experience and you’ll forgo the Unami because you’ve not got the sixth palate taste umami. I was lucky to be born bred with umami eating anything that smelled okay to me even when I was very young. But I took life and all it had to offer with both hands and drank until I became nauseous with overstepping my gastric bounds and running to the bathroom to come back for more.
It’s years later and I am at this restaurant in Las Vegas with my mother for her 65th birthday and my step sister who despises sushi but will eat a cooked dish while she literally gags leaving me embarrassed for her crassness.
“Mom? Did it occur to you perhaps it’s unhealthy to have a seven year old eat so many of her aunts meatballs with barbecue sauce in the crock pot she’d bring to every holiday dinner that I was showing signs of bulimia?”
“You know hon, come to think of it…”
Her voice trailed off as the sommelier poured with the deftness of wind through the petals of a cherry blossom branch in full bloom. Wafting between us from Reidel stem to stem and placing the bottle back in it’s chilled marble placeholder. That must be bottle three I count to myself at $175 per liter. Now I count liters of Ascites. 25 years later. Yes she’d have been 81 this upcoming January.
To become a sake sommelier one must go through rigorous training and identify 1,000 kinds of sake by taste. Or at least have drunk and understood the differences between 1,000 kinds. Which indicates how sake breeds love poetry of the gastric kind in the Japanese and in those, who like myself can tell you with great aplomb, sake rapes your brain in a way you’ll say no when you really do mean yes, please may I have more?
Those days long gone stolen along with the fish I so tenderly recall like a brief love affair one never forgets. I drank my share of sake with one of the loves of my adult life who, like my dining days left me like an extinguished cigar. It leaves its odor and ash waiting for someone to say to me, “there’s nothing as sexy as a dame sucking on a heater,” and me forgiving the grossly misogynistic tenor of his voice and of his humor. The sparkle of gold in his turquoise eyes that twinkled every time he looked adoringly into mine regardless of what I did or busied myself within his charms.
If you ask me on my deathbed who broke my heart, I’d tell you only then his name, wonder for a hesitation why he never came calling while I died and I’d tell you the name of that restaurant and only then demand you go and just try a bite of this my favorite dish. I only ask you think of me with every cool pour of junmai daigingo sake you took a sip of after savoring the tuna’s gift stolen by a fisherman of her glorious fatty body melting in your mouth like the first kiss in a true romance.
Nothing can take it’s place in your guts. Torn out years ago by the 12 dozen roses and six cards and half empty house in Los Gatos, California. How I sat for six months mourning what loss by far is more wretched in some ways than cancer.
Would I trade 10 good years now for five wonderful years with him then upon which I would suddenly die of heartbreak?
You be the judge.
Sobering up here’s the promised four quatrain poem in haiku.
Day, night, day, night sun
Light moon shines today overturns
Tomorrow in time.
Time exists the mind
Through eyes and curled tongue, ideals
Of no consequence.
Rocks hold down the soul
On earth. Why fly away so
Soon? Heal, breathe here now.
Without stones to walk
On, no path to guide your feet, our
Endless road is night.