Friday, November 14, 2014

[Poem] In the Fabled Midwest

In the Fabled Midwest

“He visited the depths of Asia, spending himself on scenes of romantic interest, of superlative sanctity; but what was present to him everywhere was that for a man who had known what he had known, the world was vulgar and vain.”
-Henry James, “The Beast in the Jungle”

The Minnesota morning stirred, a sleepy whippet
Rising from its slumber.

Last week the Berube Exhibit arrived from the Big Apple
On playful puppy paws to the Vague Buddha Gallery:
Linocuts and sketches
Of many lives, many places.
Vampires and vagabonds.
Eclectic bugs and beasts of legend:
Serene eledragophants, wandering hearts,
Wonderland rabbits, old ghosts.
Across the street, a rare display of the Urangkhathat,
Traditional folk art and colorful masks of Phi Ta Khon.
Around the corner, a Laotown homage to
A Thousand Wings,

Everything coded as always, ignored by the ignorant.
A left, a left, a right, another right, a duck, a jump or two
Brought you to the Second Annual Laotown Film Festival
Screening the chilling follow-up to shadowy Chanthaly
At the bustling Dara Plaza before departing to Innsmouth
Tony, (his preferred pseudonym) is a gentle soul.
He never wanted to be one of THOSE guys:
All hang-up and unhappy hook-ups on Hennepin and 9th.

Tony didn’t hate much in life,
Handling almost every card dealt.
Stolid as a stone wall.
But he couldn’t stand how they colonized
His old man to hate himself, his son, his past.

In a world of survivors where little love is left,
His father hated every longtime companion,
Every confirmed bachelor Tony brought by.

“Dad’s village is a matchstick from the apocalypse
And he can’t ever be happy for me.”

"You'd think he was the tyrant of Mount Pushy."

There were days Tony wished he was a Kinnaly
Who could jet off to a fabulous corner of space
Among friendly lions and bears.

Or at least Castro street.
But the tom mak hung stinks there.

We caught brunch at the Black Bear with
Sassy Sue S. Amin, her sleek mane of ebony
Still moist from a long shower as usual.
She just blew into town yesterday, rockstar cool,
Lamenting sliced Lao beauties unnatural,
All ghetto implant and vapid facade,
Horrific in homogenous monotony,
Our natural treasures jeered by the shallow.

Digging into a modest repast
Of dishes we loved from a different life,
We prattled of transformation and philosophy.

She raves about their savory tiger tears beef,
Mentions a drag of a specter wailing in her dream:

“What good is insincere revolution?
Changing names on a gilt teak door
Is not the same as changing a nation.”

She chased the spirit off with a hot rattle the shape
Of an irate baby Nyakinee, ruby-faced and still starving.
Her dreams are such odd buffalo rainbows.

Tony always thinks she’s great,
Hangs on every word but never remembers
Everything between all of the laughing.

"When an idea is seized by the masses,
It becomes a material force," Sue says.
Condensed Mao, but true enough.

She turned to cave paintings in Lascaux.
“The first art was not documentary.
We painted wishes, hoping for good hunts.
Sympathetic magic, pigment to flesh,
Fate fluid plastic, surprisingly open-minded
To reasonable requests. And a few, less so.
It’s a ballet of possibilities.”

A youth she met from the Pride Festival at Loring Park
Feared her, convinced from his fevered dreams
She was a cunning Dab Tsog or the Zaj of Lake Phalen.
Perhaps a crafty Poj Ntxoog, malign and athirst.
He expected to find her squatting on his chest
Draining his last piteous breath before dawn broke.

“I haven’t words for how ridiculous that is”
She laughs.

“If I was a real man-eater, I’d be a thousand pounds
From eating everyone who has it coming!”

“Maybe you have a great workout routine,”
Tony suggests.

She winks.
“All I’m saying is: Be careful what you wish for.”

As we leave these memories to make the next
She whispers confidentially, “Hell is built by poets.”

“But we leave enough secret cracks to escape through,”
I reply.

She cackles loud as thunder, satisfied.
It’s a day worth a legend.

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