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Jason Emde

sitting on a gifu street corner at 9 a.m. on a saturday, thinking about john lent

& sweating, hot already but blue sky

after a week of rain & lightning, the paw strokes

of typhoons to the south. My corner: the northern edge of

Kogane Park—across the street is the Gekijo-Dori

entrance to Yanagase, which is a covered shopping area

containing restaurants, bars, a department store,

shoe shops, clothing stores, the store

where I buy my incense, the shop where I buy & fix

my glasses—also the wrestling bar where I drank

with my father & Tom last time, two years

ago, a ring right in there, the wrestlers friendly

signing stuff for us after—or Irish bar Losers

with a wall full of Beatle album covers, my kinda place.

Construction clanging across the street, new apartment/

shopping complex going up, over

the white fencing around it I can see cranes,

machinery, hear construction rumbles—& a pretty

girl in silver high heels & holding a small electric fan

walks past, or maybe not pretty, who knows, everybody’s

pretty with a mask on, even me. —I am here

in my body, my mind as it is. —This part

of Kogane Park is tiled, has an ornamental

pond & an elevator to the underground parking

& a grimy public toilet—once goofed with my gang

of the time at frisbee here, at night, all of us

zooming on mushrooms, still available over

the counter in those days at the Village Vanguard at

Nagoya Port—Paul & I rode subways

out there & bought ‘em & brought ‘em

back & Rob said Good lads—Paul & Rob

gone now back to Canada & UK, think I’m the only

one from that night still here in good old

Gifu, my little provincial backwater, will I ever

leave? —Sun now cresting

the buildings to my right, hot on the right

side of my face which either is or is not

my good side, can’t remember, mebbe never knew. —Who

was it said Don’t look at buildings,

watch them? Dunno, some guy, but I know it was John Lent

who wrote try to remind myself of the continuously

repetitive miracle of the mercy of my body that leaves me

open sometimes to receiving gifts of overlapping interesting

fields of time. That’s from The Ordinary’s Incense, which

I’m carrying in my bag. —Wearing a CBC t-shirt

Natasha sent me from Toronto, vintage design,

the exploding yellow orange & red C. —Think

I was uneasy that night in the park on mushrooms,

mushrooms make me uneasy ever since that

apocalyptic afternoon with Hiroko in Amsterdam

about which I won’t say too much except

it was comprehensively & pyrotechnically awful. —Natasha

& I made out exactly once, still friends two decades later.

—Here in my body, parked in my mind. —I used to get

rides from John Lent back to Vernon after night

classes, after his poetry class, & John so funny

I’d scream with laughter the whole way, both

of us smoking like fiends, like fish, the ashtray

a catastophe, & beyond us in the dark

the lake, lakes, & inside me laughing out smoke

& John doing his hur-hur-hur chuckle, telling incredible

stories that, thinking back, were always sorta ordinary

actually, nothing spectacular, no explosions or apocalypses

but just little things that happened, self-deprecatingly

told, & the punchline would be something like

Where’s the toaster? & me breathless

laughing, laughing, young & breathless, less than half

the age I am now sitting in my body on this nowhere Gifu

corner, Saturday morning, my sons at baseball

practice, my wife at work, construction ongoing, people

going by, one pigeon squatting in the park, lights

changing, the light changing, no throb of ecstasy

up my spine but a calm non-racket instead, in all my

parts, my body as it is, & now the pigeon’s gone. —John

probably won’t live forever, hope I’ll get

to see him again before all the usual tragedies. —The Ordinary’s

Incense reminds me of Zen hints, the moment,

mind as it is, morning as it is—the reminder to be

in your body, man, but stay open to that possible

overlap, the freedom, the slips—riding with John—mushrooms

in the park with pals—drinks in Losers—kissing

Natasha in my house in Toyoake—my day & time—all

my days & times—mind & body—this morning

is my morning—this universe

mine—time to quit

writing poetry & go buy pen cartridges in Don Quixote

which should be open by now. —And a weird little bus

goes by, Gifu Monolith written on the side.

ode to body

I like a good underbite, sweetheart, &

a scar from crunching off your bunkbed

at camp or splashing off your 10 speed. Arm

caught on barbed wire. Teenage crash.

Carpenter’s dream or pneumatic meat,

mismatched & hair-haunted with

inversions, or vein-throttled, ok, your long

blue veins, traceable with my crooked tongue.

Cross-eyed & concussed or the many hassles

displayed in your snaggle & chip. Wrinkles

galore & way too many swaybacked moles.

Ceaseless rashes, plus a stack of amputations, fine.

And I like a good knee-knock, darling, yes,

& the ancient burn on the top of your foot

& your little monkey stump. Maybe a

stutter. And—do I dare?—a whole wobble of limp.

Ah, you’re delicious. You’re perfect. Come here

& let me kiss your kyphotic back. Take my plunging

heart in your hands & love me, dearest, do,

so I can sing my spree at the centre of you.

gifu pharmacy

powdered lotus root wrapped in ancient paper

taped over your nipple

for hangovers catastrophic

slap this ceramic Buddha on the belly

with your diamond palm

to prevent or cause earthquakes

volcano dust & exploding mud

& a blowjob in the bathroom

in case of undergrowth & decay

slit your memory’s throat

with a machete of shallow-end blue

& throw a throb of joy up your spine

ashes of your typewriter

mixed with old village moonshine

for homesickness & botch


Jason Emde is a teacher, writer, and undefeated amateur boxer with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. The author of My Hand’s Tired & My Heart Aches (Kalamalka Press, 2005) and little bit die (forthcoming in 2023 from Bolero Bird Books), he is also the creator and host of the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast. He lives in Japan.


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