A man comes home a few hours before sunrise.
He undresses and gets into bed, leaning over
to look at his sleeping wife. The impulse
to kiss her cheek no longer stirs. After dinner
he had gone out with his allowance, walking
to a bar where Elvis drones from the speakers.
He liked the music once, as he liked the sound
of his wife’s voice, and the smell of her cooking.
Habits consume his time, they become a veneer
to protect him from the novelty of wonder. At two
the hostesses have finished pouring drinks
for businessmen and remove their plastic smiles.
They surge into the bar. The owner begins to strum
songs on his guitar from an America 40 years distant,
These women are done smiling, but they seem happy.
The man pays his tab and goes to a Pachinko parlor.
He knows he will lose the rest of his money,
but he doesn’t care, he adjusts the small knobs
between puffs of a Marlboro Light, and watches
steel balls tumble, some disappear into the holes
like unspoken words between husband and wife.
cherry blossom petals caught between the sunlight
and the wind that knocks them soundlessly to the ground.
Numbers scroll across the screen. He never glances
at the people trundling behind him. Bells ring,
coins fall, buttons are mashed. He doesn’t hear
anything, the silence is unbearable. And each flash
of silver seems farther away than the last,
vanishing into a labyrinth of machine parts.
There are days when he forgets the sound
of his own voice. Tuesdays bring English
class, mandatory for the company middlemen
He remains quiet. A bright eyed American
tries to explain his culture to him, and he thinks
of a million words he wants to say. He knows
it would take ten lifetimes to translate the things
he wants to tell a happy young man, but his thoughts
meander,and are lost in that invisible place
between languages. They collect in a pool
where he imagines his future, a place
where colors no longer appear
In the hopes that the beautiful people all return to the fold.
1 - In most middle aged Japanese marriages, men work and women are housewives. At least this is true in the smaller cities and countryside. Most marriages also have an arrangement that the housewife pays the bills and controls all the money, to such an extreme that they also control their husband’s spending money, called allowance.
2 - A veneer is a protective coating usually painted onto wooden surfaces to protect the polish or color from fading or in the case of outdoor patios and decks, rain or weather damage.
3 - Hostess Bars are wildly popular among mostly the older Japanese men. It’s essentially an extremely watered down strip club where gussied up girls pour your drinks, light your cigarettes, and flirt with you. Occasional leg rubbing will occur, and anything else depends on the class of the establishment.
4 - For the most part there are no casinos or traditional casino games in Japan. Horse Racing has died out seemingly parallel to the USA. However, every town has a Pachinko Parlor. The game Pachinko is best described as a slightly more user interactive slot machine. A string of small steel balls descend from the top of the machine and the gambler can slightly adjust the rails that determine loosely where the balls bounce. The object is to get as many of these balls as possible into some of the small holes in the middle of the field. It is similar to the Plinko game from The Price is Right.
5 - Cherry Blossom Flowers are incredibly fragile, and bloom for only two weeks, after which a strong wind or passing rainstorm will knock hundreds to thousands of pedals from every tree.