Posted by: John Looker | 26 January, 2014

Dates and Carp

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Dates and Carp

From the cool lobby to the cooler limo      
is a moment of blistering heat.

At the restaurant the prince,
in long white thaub and keffiyeh, greets him 
and Satō-san, with a bow, presents his card.

First there are dates and glasses of lemon
by an indoor pond. He admires the koi,
and conversation moves as slowly as the carp 
to art, to horses, to motor racing
and the risks incurred.

At the table his host offers wine:
the slightest observable pause,
a negotiation of eye-brows,

before he quietly accepts.

There’s a path to follow, well-worn,
and talk proceeds – to gardens,
to homes, to the health of parents 

and the amusing scrapes of sons –
through mutually choreographed steps.

If all goes well (and why should it not?)
he will offer dinner tomorrow, and later
welcome an invitation to visit the plant.
Meanwhile, he has brought the traditional gift:
not immoderate and chosen with care,
wrapped in its furoshiki, impeccably neat.

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thaub : traditional Arab robe
keffiyeh : Arab headdress, held in place with a circle of rope
furoshiki : traditional Japanese cloth in which to wrap presents

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© John Stevens 2014

This continues my series of poems under the collective title “The Silk Road” which began with Frequent Flyers – see the post at:

https://johnstevensjs.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/frequent-flyers/

There are two more to come.

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Responses

  1. I do admire this poem, John. I shared it on my FB page. Hope you don’t mind. 🙂

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    • How could I mind?! I am honoured – thank you.

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  2. John, this is finely measured, wonderfully deliberate.

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  3. The story continues, John. I have been having trouble posting. I am not sure why, but this has all the strengths of the first poem, the image imbedded in incident, the spare language, the continued building toward some kind of unseen climax. Ahhhhhh….

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    • Thanks Thomas; I’m hoping the end won’t disappoint you.

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  4. Once again, I have only details to comment upon. I can hardly get past the title, for the associations the words “dates”, and “carp” bring to mind. The first two lines are brilliant for the briefest capturing of the fact. My favorite thing, however, is the “negotiation of eyebrows”…and such gorgeous, sensitive imagery over all. Do go on, please.

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    • That means a great deal to me, Cynthia. Thank you. Don’t hold back on the criticisms either when you think they are due.

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  5. Hi John, this story is intriguing with beautiful details, making me wonder what will happen next…

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  6. Beautifully captured and wonderfully described the perfectly choreographed pre-negotiation waltz. Great John!

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  7. It is remarkable how remarkable reticence can be: two cultures notable for subtle manners meet in a poem by a poet who is growing increasingly subtle. A ‘negotiation of eyebrows’, conversation that moves to art, to motor racing via horses—makes sense, sensi, horses do race. Elegance, nonchalance, honor. Pity it all has something to do with ‘the plant’. I hope we’re not talking about ‘dark Satanic mills’… no, I fear we are. There’s too much custard on this pie, me thinks.
    Oh.well, Wallace Stevens said poetry is a kind of money. I wonder if reality is too.
    Quite a poem, John.

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    • Thank you Jim. Wallace Stevens said that? I didn’t know – an interesting remark and characteristically ‘subtle’! I like your observation about Satanic Mills by the way.

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  8. Also: that last line is perfection itself.

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  9. Such a delicate “politic”, it seems the guests must do everything so perfectly within such confined traditions. This kind of social interaction would have me terribly afraid. Perhaps that is why I read it and feel such tight tension. I, too, wait to see how it ends. So much conveyed here but with just a few words.

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