In memory of Jay Kashiwamura
In Chicago, it is snowing softly and a man has just done his wash for the week. He steps into the twilight of early evening, carrying a wrinkled shopping bag full of neatly folded clothes, and, for a moment, enjoys the feel of warm laundry and crinkled paper, flannellike against his gloveless hands. There's a Rembrandt glow on his face, a triangle of orange in the hollow of his cheek as a last flash of sunset blazes the storefronts and lit windows of the street. He is Asian, Thai or Vietnamese, and very skinny, dressed as one of the poor in rumpled suit pants and a plaid mackinaw, dingy and too large. He negotiates the slick of ice on the sidewalk by his car, opens the Fairlane's back door, leans to place the laundry in, and turns, for an instant, toward the flurry of footsteps and cries of pedestrians as a boy--that's all he was-- backs from the corner package store shooting a pistol, firing it, once, at the dumbfounded man who falls forward, grabbing at his chest. A few sounds escape from his mouth, a babbling no one understands as people surround him bewildered at his speech. The noises he makes are nothing to them. The boy has gone, lost in the light array of foot traffic dappling the snow with fresh prints. Tonight, I read about Descartes' grand courage to doubt everything except his own miraculous existence and I feel so distinct from the wounded man lying on the concrete I am ashamed Let the night sky cover him as he dies. Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven and take up his cold hands.
From The River of Heaven by Garrett Hongo, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1988 Garrett Hongo. Used with permission.
Japanese American poet, Garrett Hongo was born in Volcano, Hawai'i, in 1951.
Date Published: 1988-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/legend