Friday, April 25, 2008

in January

Only one cell in the frozen hive of night
is lit, or so it seems to us:
this Vietnamese café, with its oily light,
its odors whose colorful shapes are like flowers.
Laughter and talking, the tick of chopsticks.
Beyond the glass, the wintry city
creaks like an ancient wooden bridge.
A great wind rushes under all of us.
The bigger the window, the more it trembles.

~ Ted Kooser

Thursday, April 24, 2008

summer storm-
the yellow crayon
worn down to a stub

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Cable car ride

Somewhere on one of San Fransisco's hilly streets, there is a small place that I'll call Sam's.
You climb up a set of narrow wooden stairs, past the two cooks and a flurry of steaming woks. Entering the dining area, you stand in about a foot of space while you wait for a table.
The moment someone finishes eating and squeezes past you, you leap forward and claim one table and two of the wooden, backless stools that go with it. Then she comes around, a small woman in sweatpants and jogging shoes, with a huge tray of steaming food. How did she haul it up those stairs? you wonder. She yells in accented English down to the cooks, the other customers, herself.
A few minutes later, she takes your order. She whips out a writing pad about 4 inches square; as you say what you want, she makes a few slashes in this pad and nods. You realize the slashes are her own form of Chinese letters. She also performs a yanking action on a tiny elevaor chain that sends God-knows-what down to her cooks in a complex system of dining-room-to-kitchen- entropy that we don't understand. The levers and pulleys look like they are the same as when they were built, perhaps in 1925 or so.
Sometimes, other customers get tired of waiting and actually leave. She shrugs, apologetic, yet not. She yells down to the cooks, "They didn't EAT anything!" We other diners look around and snicker self-consciously.
The food arrives, in large white bowls, steaming and filled with bits of spiced pork, vegetables, rich noodles, broth, good stuff. We eat.
After we pay and are on our way downstairs again, we hear her yelling down to the cooks: "Leven niney fi!"
Eleven ninety five. The price of two bowls of salvation on a windy San Fransisco day.
Later, I take my first cable car ride. As the car moves steeply up past the Embarcadero and the wind howls in my ears, I suddenly want her to bring me food again.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I agree

Heard this somewhere today and it's going to stick with me:

Don't wake up at the end of someone else's life.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Somerville, somewhere in Boston

Today I saw an Indian woman behind the counter of our breakfast place. Balbir. She had a thick Punjabi accent and wore a nose ring.
I wanted to hug her.
Balbir, let's go home.
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