If You Can’t Find One in Queens, Forget About It-David Lohrey

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I love Japan.

I’m so into it, I eat my cornflakes

with chopsticks.

I want to fit in.

I’m so into it, I wear a fake, jet black

top-knot of my bald head.

 

Japan is everything I imagined

it would be. They still hate us;

it’s a chance to re-experience WWII.

On the trains at night, late, I imagine

someone might run a bayonet through

my knee, screaming, “Stand up straight.”

 

They greet visitors at the airport

with a test. “When,” they’ll ask,

“are you planning to leave?” If you answer,

“Never,” they send you home. There’s

only one acceptable answer to this question.

“ASAP.”

 

Many foreigners love it even more

than I. They eat rice cakes for breakfast,

lunch, and dinner. They bow as they talk

on the phone. They have all their body hair

removed. They wear tattoos of men raping carp.

They regret not having slept with their mothers

during college as many locals do.

 

Visitors often say how they love it here.

They declare themselves smitten; they gush.

They adore all of it, even the green or pink

poodles, the boys with yellow toenails,

and the men wearing red lipstick and mascara.

I love them, too. I especially love the male retirees

who take their pants off at the cinema.

 

I love the soiled underwear sold in vending

machines. I appreciate the home delivery of fresh eggs. I

crave the beer-fed beef sold by the gram, at over $400

per kilo. I’m addicted to the parmesan cheese made of sawdust

and powdered soy. What I love most are the young housewives

who wear Disneyland bras and Donald Duck panties. Quack.

 

My ardor, however, does not compare to that of my colleagues.

They love it so much they hate their own countries;

America, England, Ireland and Canada are all in their eyes

nothing but shit. They don’t miss home at all. What they love

best about Japan is that those on death row are executed

in secret. They like the denials of war guilt, the cult of the Emperor,

and the open hostility to “inferior” nations.

 

What attracts them immediately and what they embrace is

the Japanese love of peace. It’s their delicacy,

their manners and their politeness that stand out.

When they chop a prisoner’s head off, they shout,

“Excuse me.” But this is not what I love most.

I love the citrus, a variety that tastes familiar but different.

It’s something like a tangerine but it’s yellow. It’s small,

but looks like grapefruit. It could be called a Japanese orange.

Its name is Yuzu.

 

My conclusion is that there must be something in the soy sauce.

It must cause blindness, because when I wave at the locals,

they never wave back. When I smile, they don’t react. When I whistle,

they run. Or is it something in the saké? Perhaps something in the water?

It rains every day, but they fine residents for running the tap.

My only guess is that they’ve sold their water to the Chinese.

They say that’s why there are so many of them in Hokkaido.

Heads will roll, thank God.

 

And with that, it’s time to leave for the airport. If they’ll let

me. My taxes may not be paid up. I made $28,000 last year,

but they taxed me as a multimillionaire. They withhold over 70%

from foreigners out of fear they might abscond. Once you do,

you can never go back.

 

Let’s see if it works.


David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.

Multicultural Sushi – David Lohrey

What Europe needs is more Asians.
England will never be the same and dear
Katie can’t wait. She wants Liverpool
to look like Calcutta. Her dream
is a world of heterogeneity. Her idea
of bliss is Los Angeles everywhere.
Kuala Lumpur in Germany. Italy
without Italians, brimming with
Somalis; that’s the ticket. Germany
without whites.

Syrians will build Mercedes, according to sweet Katie. The
Algerians can bake the Stollen. Refugees from
Afghanistan will make the watches.
The Iraqis want to design Cuckoo Clocks;
get rid of the Swiss, the Germans, Swedes,
and the Danes. What do they know? They’ll be fine
in downtown Nairobi.

But Katie also likes Tokyo. She loves
the buzz and the sushi. What she likes above all else
is how safe it is for women. She can walk the streets
after midnight. But, here too, she celebrates
diversity. Bring in more Asians, Katie declares.
Welcome Filipinos and Chinese by the millions.
Why wouldn’t you? But she doesn’t wait for an answer.
She rushes to fling open the gates. Let’s erase the borders.

Yes, nothing less than 30 million will do.
If the US can take 1, 000, 000 Mexicans – and we know it can –
Japan can easily handle half of China. Throw in Manila.
Why ever not? If you dare to argue, you’re a racist.
If you express a doubt, you’re a Nazi. The more the merrier.
What is there to lose?

I ask…

If Merkel can’t get the Greeks to work 60-hour weeks,
how is she going to convince refugees from Sierra Leone to do overtime?
Is it true that economics is color blind?
Do Moroccans read Max Weber?
Do Ugandans have a work ethic?
Do Filipinos commit suicide when they’re wrong?
Do Americans have a sense of shame?

What of honor?

Japan without Japanese is China.
America is an airport with an annex.
It’s less a culture than a location, a living space.
Do we really want more and more of Houston?
A Dallas that stretches from sea to sea is bad enough.
Must it now be exported to the rest of the world?
The Japanese give up Kyoto but get Colorado?
A sea of homeless people. Mexicans without Spanish?

And the streets will remain safe?
Why ever not? Katie laughs. I wouldn’t try it in New Delhi.
Only a fool would in most of Chicago, not to mention Tijuana.
She doesn’t believe it. She knows better.
“If you’re nice to them,” she sings, “they’ll be nice to you.”
Diversity is marvelous, I’ll agree to that,
but I can’t see how a diverse Japan remains Japan.
Japan without Japanese isn’t Japan; that’s all I’m saying.
What it becomes might be great, perhaps even better, I won’t deny it.

You’ll get a better world perhaps, but you’ll sacrifice the sushi.
Have you tried the tacos in Los Angeles made with kimchi?
Many find them delicious – it’s a fair point – but remember this:
The Japanese don’t drink their tea with sugar.
When you add peach flavoring to green tea,
it ceases being Japanese and becomes garbage.
So, open the gates and cry welcome but don’t tell me
you love Kyoto. Tell me you want to live at Kennedy Airport,
in Terminal 9; the sushi there is marvelous. Try it with salsa.


[ David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon.com. He is also the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing.]

Glass Ceiling – David Lohrey

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Anya: she’s a cheerleader for the downtrodden.
I know because she’s ambitious.
The higher she wants to go, the more she cares.
As she fills out applications, you can hear her crying.

Oh, Anya, how she weeps for the poor.
She wails for the disabled. She loves
above all else to wag her finger. She prides
herself on her outrage, she thrives on indignation.

What Anya craves is power. She longs to join
Mothers of the Disabled. After distributing
pamphlets to the masses, she’ll drink toilet water.
She’s on the same wave length as the desperate.
She hangs a portrait of Mother Teresa over her bed.

What the fuck, she wants to be President.
She’s determined to get that promotion,
enough to hug a leper, but first she’ll read
to the blind. She’ll distribute clothing to the homeless.
She wants street cred; it’s the only way to the top.
She wants to be compared to her idol, Lady Di.

Not so long ago, the poor piano player was told
to try drums. Today the little girl is told to keep playing.
Anya has seen to that. The fat girl is encouraged
to join the ballet. The not so very bright boy is sent to law school.
This is the world she hopes to dominate.
The triumph of empathy is the next big thing.

There’ll be no stopping her. There are billions to be made off
mediocrity, a thousand times more than what’s been
made off talent. The triumph of failure. She’s tapped
into the voice of despair. Today the losers are on the move.
Everyone gets in. They’ll get a certificate for breathing,
a degree for trying.

They’ll attend graduate school on Skype from prison.
No one gets left behind. By the year 2029, 89% of the
American people will have a Ph.D. Now that Anya’s
President everyone on earth can attend Harvard; they’ll
learn to turn their despair into dread, like Franz Kafka.
The American dream is fulfilled; everyone’s a fool.


 

[David Lohrey is the author of Machiavelli’s Backyard from Sudden Denouement Publishing. He is also an editor for Sudden Denouement and a mentor for me personally – Jasper Kerkau]

The Artist’s Touch – David Lohrey

Artists refuse to tell us why
what we do every day is drudgery,
but for them, joy. They love
what they do, they declare, but
they know we dig the same holes
with a sense of woe. We’re
dying but they thrive. What
we do is called work, but for
them it is more… it is
something entirely different.
It’s a kick and they are rewarded
for it. They sell the holes they dig.
They’re able to see in the dark.
They can go about barefooted or
drive a car without a license.
In their world a toilet is not
merely a throne; it’s a rack for
sombreros, a podium for speeches,
and, if not that, then an umbrella stand
for tomatoes.

But putting objects to use is not
the sole talent of artists. Anyone can do that.
No, their talent includes the ability
to wrest power. Their skill involves
class warfare. They’ve managed
near and far to disenchant the gentry,
to rob the ruling class of its glamour.
Everyone wants to be Picasso, not the Duke
of Devon. The planter class in Mississippi
has been displaced by Elvis. Nobody
thinks the Taylors, the McFaddens,
or Walker Percy’s family are anything special.
People want to meet the poet in his garret,
not the lord of the manor, however grand
his six thousand acres may be. Women
threw themselves at Dylan Thomas,
not at Nelson Rockefeller. Tiny Tim counts,
but not the Queen’s poorer cousins. Madonna
holds court, as did Andy Warhol. David Bowie
is imagined to have something to say, but not
the little old lady from Pasadena.

An entire class has been displaced by singer
song writers and horny painters. One thinks of Lucien
Freud and Francis Bacon with their paint brushes.
They have more in common with stable
boys than aristocrats, but are much more likely
to be called milord and greeted with applause
than some eccentric landowner with a six-car garage.
Artists did that, not the French Revolution,
and don’t you forget it. “Madame Bovary” lives.
Charles Bukowski appears in Sean Penn’s dreams.
Movie stars love his vomit. Even dreck has cachet.
Even the Chinese value Rothko. Hitler knew not to
bomb Paris. American pilots steered clear
of Kyoto. And it wasn’t to save gas.

This is why the world was shocked when the Americans
left the Baghdad Museum unguarded, not by the bombing
of civilians. In modern times, you can incinerate the people,
but one mustn’t abandon the Titian. J. Paul Getty
valued Fabergé Eggs, not herds of cattle. Art is life. Today,
Elvis’s shorts lie beneath protective glass guarded by the sheriff.
His landlord’s underwear was given to charity.
The same thing applies to Japan and Brazil:
stars are from the country, not the countryside. Get out
there and claim your hole. Put a circle around it
and name it. Modern art is about making something
from nothing. Artists are nobodies, not has-beens.
They belong to tomorrow.


 

[David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and he is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. His latest book, The Other Is Oneself: Postcolonial Identity in a Century of War: 20th Century African and American Writers Respond to Survival and Genocide, is available on Amazon. A book of his poetry, entitled “Machiavelli’s Backyard” will be released before 2018.]

Tokyo Express: Poem from Machiavelli’s Backyard by David Lohrey on SD Publishing

Tokyo Express – David Lohrey

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Tokyo Express

That man there used to be my father.
I recognize those blue-veined arms on that corpse riding the
train with me from Shimokitazawa to Chitose-Funabashi.
That’s the corpse of my father, I swear to God.

I recognize his receding hairline and his pale skin.
It even has curly hair and wears glasses. That’s dad,
all right, sitting there beneath the sign for special seating.
That’s exactly where he’d sit if he were alive.

Dad saw himself as disabled and in some ways he was.
He was an emotional cripple, that’s for sure.
He flew into rages over nothing.

I once got up the courage to point out there were no other cars on the road but he was cursing. He was ranting. He looked out the window and stopped. When I was eleven, he’d have turned around and smacked me on the head. He was always threatening to trounce me.

Dad was a bully. When I was little, mother asked me to get dad an aspirin to go with his pickled herring and his dry martini. Years later, dad once said, “After two martinis, I’m not afraid of anything.” I like that.

Like a lot of monsters, he had a heart of gold. Like Frankenstein and all his monster friends, he scared the neighborhood children but felt lonely. Like many bullies before him, what he needed was a blind man to make
him a cup of tea. It was precisely because people were not blind that he hated them.

Oh, but how well Edward Albee understood him. What he wanted above all else was love: L.O.V.E. Just like an alcoholic, but he didn’t drink. No, his father drank enough for two generations. He once said, “You think you’re a big shot, but you’re nothing but a big shit.” I like that, too. I used to pick cashews out from father’s dish of mixed nuts. Amazingly, it didn’t make him mad. It amused him.
I did that from his lap.

That old Japanese guy sitting across from me reminds me
of my father when he was alive. The old man there looks
very thoughtful, looks intelligent. My father, too, had that look. I wish I did.

That man’s flesh is as white as a frog’s belly, so pale I can see his blue cheesy veins. I could see my father’s, too. It made him look frail. He’d get cross but with no power. He became pathetic, especially when he smelled of urine.

It’s hard to control other people when you stink.
It’s impossible to run the show when you’ve sprung a leak.
It’s hard to frighten your son when you have to wear pampers. Fear goes but love lasts. Now there’s a line for Machiavelli’s Prince. I learned that from my father. Or is it the other way around?

From the forthcoming book of poetry Machiavelli’s Backyard via Sudden Denouement Publishing.

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Drink the Ramen – David Lohrey

It rains every day but there is no water.

In Chitose-Funabashi, the puddles are fine and the river runs wide,
But showers are on timers.

Take the wrappers off the bottles, keep the lettuce in the larder,
The neighbors eye our bin.

This summer, lightning strikes harder but the rains lose heart.

Locals don’t taste the noodles, the flavor’s in the broth.

It rains every day but there is no water.


[David Lohrey was born on the Hudson River but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. Also, he’s freakin’ awesome.]