Poetry: Jeffrey Calhoun

We looked for a ninja spirit, Japan, 2002

We took the shinkansen from Tokyo
to Nagano, skied on a mountain
where we could just see the ocean.
You saw an old man selling swords
on the side of the road. I thought
I saw blood stick to one of the blades.

We were angels dancing on the head
of a bullet. You did the samba,
I did the mamba as an electric god
spit us across the country.
You said a samurai once rode
across the same distance in a month.

Cartoon people plastered shop windows
and plasma TVs. I paid a boy
to animate you with a spear
lancing its tip through a demon.
You saw me peek as an otaku
battled a shaman in a cyber cafe.
The kid looked liked he’d been there for days.
You said he wouldn’t last the night.

In Hiroshima, we washed our feet
before we entered a temple. It was new
like Tokyo and the rest of Japan. Outside,
burnt silhouettes spattered the concrete.
You said you’d go blind if you saw the crater.
I told you we could never be ninjas.

On the plane, you were a mess, a random pile
of tissue. The artificial light radiated
and made you sick.  We couldn’t sleep.
The aircraft gnashed its sharp teeth, flexed
its heavy metal bones.
We knew we might drop like payload.

Flying to Portland for a funeral

Remove your shoes unless a cable
sliced you clean at the ankles.

The security guard has steel bones.
Your veins a spool of electrical cords.

Hide your tattoo, the little devil.
His pitchfork has a taste for blood.

The cabin is dark, the clouds spit lightning curses.

Returning the favor

Dark glass littered on the carpet
like mines.  They bite deep;
you watch where you step.
Your father gave you bits of jade,
but you cut your foot.

Run around an old dirt track.
Remember mother’s turntable,
the jazz trumpets, the drummer
who slapped her while you watched
from a fort you built in your room.

You see her at the finish line.
She rubs a flask in her coat pocket.
You might be a genie, but your bra
is torn and it smells like a cheap cigar.

I’m a fish and I swim in circles,
the son you never wanted.
You shake, your bones
the dull little rhythm of a tambourine.