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Robert Lipton




IT EVEN COMES OUT HER EARS

normally stingy with her urine
she would release it
heartily as she smoked one of Rick's joints

coughing like a cancer patient sneaking a cigarette
her head seemed to close in on itself
squeezing the smoke and wheezes
through her lips and nose

the yellow liquid wets the blue metal
wheel chair, the concrete in the groomed
courtyard staining
laughter between the hacking fits

mother is an abstract term
a belief as easy as falling asleep
as difficult as my Mom
making the joint hiss
in the liquid at her feet





POSSESSION

there is a lacquer box
red lines with a black
background where my
mother kept her bracelets
and gold rings, she went
on about her Japanese
box brought to her after
the war, the one thing
her father intended for her
she used to say the Japs
were masters at wooden things
like boxes and the little umbrellas
protecting a Mai Tai made down
at the Polynesian bar where
Mom ordered the Pooh Pooh
platter just for the sniggering name

Often, not without a certain
gracelessness, she coached me
on how to primp my hair
pull it back from my forehead
pull the skin at the corner of my
eyes, making me squint "Japanese"
her laugh was clean, I imagine
like the streams that feed into
the main river running
through the temple city of Koyosan
in the mountains outside Osaka
where I saw a Buddhist priest
drink three football players under the table
sake dribbling from their lips
nothing but cicadas whirring in
the summer night. As honored guests
we draped our wet towels over water
color painted room dividers from
the previous century, laughed at
the paint running down
into the tatami mats

I have a picture of a little Japanese girl
yellow rain boots and dwarfing yellow
umbrella, against glistening black
pavement, I can hear the stream trickling
pines rustle up the valley, and I want
everything I ever possess to easily fit
into her wood and bamboo lunch box

I remember Mom filling my own tin
Batman box with baloney sandwiches
and stringed potato crisps
this is the world Mom allows me
she prepares the plastic wrapped cookies
and thermos of milk as careful as a Noh
actor crying in silence
this is where I keep my mother's love





WHAT I NOTICE INSTEAD

She has one tooth and hangs her head
like she's worked a field of rice or a factory
floor for 35 years, she orders the pastrami
on a Kaiser roll with a side of
German potato salad, I cut the sandwich
into bite size pieces
she picks at the sides of the meat
looks away from anyone
that could look at her
this deli is no longer fun

The numbing pain of rotted gums and nerves
squats at the table interjecting squid bursts
of inky silence, Mom's little wheeze and I check
silverware for spots and watch the middle aged
couple in the booth eat chicken noodle soup
from a silvered tin, a half chicken
corpse puckered and wan floats
in egg noodles, long boiled carrots are fished
out and examined

Connoisseurs of carrots so close to my table
the couple are forensic in their exploration
my mother's strong left hand props up her head
as she looks at the Formica table top, brown
and scratched, her reflection muffled and easy
to take in, while the sandwich
sits on her plate
her body sits in the wheel chair
her words sit in her head
we smile through each other
the desire for somewhere else
spread before us like dessert





PURPLE HEART

his was
self-inflicted
done with
the panache
of the desperate
instead of two toes
he destroyed his left
foot, metatarsals
jellied, he
would have run
a marathon, and then
shot
his dick off
shot
grandpa's dick off
an entire platoon
of grandpa dicks

the limp is practically
aristocratic now
a dueling scar
the wound story
varies: shrapnel
as he exposed
himself dragging
the biggest piece
of his buddy to
safety, mortar
fire as he raced forward
guns blazing.
a common
bravery
lighting him
like Christmas tree





DELI

her face knew before she did
she couldn't have the kosher dill
crunchy and covered with hot mustard
her teeth dead in her mouth
half her face a sleepy frown

we ordered the lox plate
egg and garlic bagels
thick sliced tomatoes and onions
whipped cream cheese, Jewish and soft

she was forced to eat dainty
noticing her food like a poet
her one good hand elegant in it's motions
her frozen right side, watching
like a dead twin





RE-CAP

I behave badly at the funeral, funerals should include flowers that give the impression of life, Orchids are parasites, they drain their colors from the juices of more responsible plants, it was made incumbent on me to throw every last one of these things into the trash before they put you into the ground, that they claimed the flowers were standard issue, funeral home certified, was immaterial, I wasn't fooled, and the casket, although of a high gloss, wasn't teak, it would not withstand severe rains or floods, so I removed you, albeit gently, from the casket, of course, I was forced to brandish my revolver, threaten the priest and to enlist the unwilling assistance of my little niece, and at this point, I couldn't help but notice that your clothes were a certain horror, your dress out of style years ago, I stripped you bare, they hadn't even thought to include your underwear, and then I noticed that the mortician had completed only the most cursory of jobs on your wounds, it wasn't so much the entrance wounds, but the gaping exit wounds in your back and neck, laced up like loose tennis shoes, the edges of your flesh pouting purple, this was most disconcerting, enough so, you understand, gentle one, to force me into squeezing the trigger of the pistol and to accidentally destroy my niece's left foot, imagine my predicament, she's crying something awful, but more important, she can't help me with you, I can laugh now, but at that point, and I know, you'll understand, all restraint became futile, I pulled the trigger again and again, hitting you pointlessly, and putting a stop to my niece's extraordinary noises, it was one of those "act of god" situations, I only knew that this was an unsatisfactory result, that doubts about my motives were now becoming unavoidable, of course, I knew I had to shoot you, they hadn't treated you with respect and because there were more of them then you, the parsimonious solution was to stop you. Yes, at this point in time, you're dead, as if you could know, but look what a mess I'm still in, and you're not even an appropriate date anymore. Relationships are always a struggle and ours is at a low point now.





SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

Aggressive like butter she told me
muy bravo, muy bravo
and I was thinking of the movie
where John Wayne kills 16 million
Indians with 6 bullets
not Dona Margarita's husband
back-handing her oldest daughter
bad rum and vomit smelling up the room
she wrinkled her nose, my Spanish
seemed to be improving
I knew most of the words
and could tell her that the weather was
never a good omen - the cat seemed to be on-fire
and that I liked my martini dry
she nodded as she continued washing
clothes, and telling me that her children
hate her for staying with him
her oldest daughter has never had sex
and that I was a good and kind man
I assured her in my frayed Castilian
of my rectitude in seducing a woman
with threats of abandonment and scorn
my hatred for my gentle hands
and ingenuous eyes
was successfully conveyed
to the Dona as was my love
of my flagrant little cock
we nodded as one, wasps built
a nest above our heads, Dona Margarita
found a female scorpion in my shorts
pocket, cut it in half with a garden shovel
pressing the subjunctive, I told her, that, unlike tomorrow
this will be the best of all days



Copyright 2001 by Robert Lipton

Contributor's Note