I’d like okonomiyaki and the warm ink of Akiyoshidai sake, he said.
We’d been talking about the poetry of Philip Levine—
the long columns he crafted from love, work and working
class lives. We shouted his name as though he were living
across the road, and we were on our way with salami
wrapped in newspaper. In town, having found
a restaurant with Osaka pancakes, our talk turned
to when W.S. Merwin abandoned punctuation.
I drank too much and disgraced myself
by misquoting the opening of Elizabeth Bishop’s Fish
and then made things worse by attributing a line
from William Stafford to James Dickey.
Worn down by jet-lag and my scattergun approach
to the poetry of his peers, he opened a black notebook
and scribbled lines as though writing me a ticket
for some lyrical infringement.
I did not have the heart to say I’d never read his poetry
falling in love, instead, with the eponymous nature
of his name, meaning light and hypersensitivity
which he proved by insisting, after our meal
that we walk around a flood-lit oval, where he’d seen
football players going through their drills.
As we walked he started weeping. Brushing my hand
from his shoulder, he recited
James Wright’s Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio
his voice tremulous above the sound of young men
galloping terribly against each other’s bodies.