from today, i’m gonna use chinese napkins for direction

bent low atop the table, lights dim,
he speaks half english and two-thirds chinese,
eyes slit, deep in concentration, pen in
wrinkled fingers, napkin way too small
to fit the drawing, but those ink blue lines
will take us out of Chinatown

& at least we know where we’re going after
wandering for quite a bit, the taste of beef &
shrimps blend with green tea & friendship,
reckless ticking of the clock, i

take the chopsticks, ReWiND, StoPTiME,
SWinG ‘em in the cooking haze, a
magic wand, soaked with other world
spices, soy sauce & moments that

hang fragile on chinese lanterns, web-thin,
tumbling in the wind, ink drops, spilled
on parchment, on the streets we walked–
the owner (somehow feels a bit James Bond–)

holds the door, shows us to the corner
to ensure, we’re going in the right direction,
& i’m not quite sure– if we burnt the napkin
after reading– or if it’s forever hidden in
those pages, BReaTHinG– carrying the scent
between ancient & sliced fragments of today

.

join us over at dVerse where we will probably have no chopsticks and no chinese waiter but Joe Hesch, who is tending bar …doors will open at 3pm EST..

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69 responses to “from today, i’m gonna use chinese napkins for direction

  1. Ab Fab, Claudia! What a slice of life you’ve painted here – I particularly like the bit about the James Bond owner… I can just see him right now!

  2. You burnt the napkin haha nice movie rift, even if that movie was soo very bad. But Brian said he tucked it away, so I guess he stole it and still has it at his bay.

  3. This brought back such nice memories of eating in China Town, enjoying the mysterious atmosphere and the delectable foods. I never noticed the napkins much though. Only you have that imagination.

  4. I can almost hear the oil crackling and sputtering in the wok as the vegetables and shrimp and meat dance to the beat of two poets lost in a James Bond movie prowling the secret pathways of New York. Great to read both these poems together like this–thanks to you, and Brian too, for sharing your travels with us so generously–and burn the napkin if you must, but don’t inhale. Loved it, Claudia.

  5. moments that
    hang fragile on chinese lanterns, web-thin,
    tumbling in the wind, ink drops, spilled
    on parchment, on the streets we walked….love the feel of this, and the last stanza just gorgeous! :)

  6. smiles…he was so cool…it was like we were his only customers even though there were many other tables full…that man should be a saint…smiles…and the map is still tucked in the book, just in case…love the senses touched in this…and a bit of magic…

    sorry i am late in getting over….worked the soup kitchen all morning…just getting a break…

  7. Wonderful weaving of images of your last day in NYC. Nothing like authentic Chinese in Chinatown! Glad that you headed your way in the right direction after the meal!

  8. Ahh… another little snippet of your visit with Brian to his city. What a lovely slice of life you shared. The imagery is so realistic, I can almost smell the food and see the noodles and such. Delicious writing again :)

  9. Beautifil poem, Claudia.

    “those ink blue lines
    will take us out of Chinatown” – fantastic line!

    I also love the lines “moments that
    hang fragile on chinese lanterns, web-thin”
    and the sliced fragments of today.

  10. “he speaks half english and two-thirds chinese,”

    Classic! Definitely brought a smile to my face, and this is one of those lines that helps everybody identify with the poem, whether they have been to chinatown or not.

    ” the taste of beef &
    shrimps blend with green tea & friendship”

    Another brilliant line, and one we all can appreciate.

    Sounds like you and Brian had a great time dining and exploring…enjoyed the opportunity to read “both sides of the coin” from your experience in chinatown.

  11. A flowerdrumsong of Manhattan – tattooed on our hearts as we read on the ink and parchment cyberpoem you’ve penned for us, bringing us the sensuous journey right through our screens and feeling the Brooklyn Bridge towering behind us. It’s a BigAppleTale and I’ve fallen into it as though I were there.

  12. Your talent of describing imagery love is absolutely stunning! I can feel, smell, taste and see this…unique and absolutely remarkable piece! I am glad I found your poetry, I look forward to reading your work :) xoxo

  13. This made me think of whole chickens, feet and all, hanging in the window of a Chinatown store. Your poem was as surreal as my own venture into Chinatown when we were in NYC a few summers ago. I love this line: “he speaks half english and two-thirds chinese.” The math is perfect! Peace, Linda

  14. The whole prom was mouthwateringly good, but the lines “ReWiND, StoPTiME, SWinG ‘em in the cooking haze, a magic wand, soaked with other world spices, soy sauce” were just delicious!

  15. Claudia, a superb addition to your NYC collection. Totally got that Chinatown vibe down here and the coolest part of the whole piece for me, is how all along I was saying to myself that this had a complete spy type feel to it, and then at the end you innocently referenced the burning of the napkin- so creative. Thanks

  16. I really like how you and Brian are writing about your exploration of NYC together — preserving moments, interesting scenes. Very interesting to read both of your poems side by side. :)

  17. Sometimes the best memories are those forged over the dinner table…in this you made me smell the salt beef and chilli in the air- the crash of the kitchen- and the chat tumbling from table to table- what a great capture of a moment in time in what seems to be a very special place for you

  18. Some of our best memories are those forged over the dinner table- in this pie eni could smell the salt and chilli beef- hear the crash of the kitchen and feel the warmth of the conversation spilling in between tables- what a great capture of a moment in time- in a place that is clearly very close to your heart

  19. from today, i’m gonna use chinese napkins for direction…

    “bent low atop the table, lights dim,
    he speaks half english and two-thirds chinese,

    eyes slit, deep in concentration, pen in
    wrinkled fingers, napkin way too small
    to fit the drawing, but those ink blue lines
    will take us out of Chinatown…”

    Hi! Claudia…
    So many Of your poetic words from your poem once again “hit me in the face…” such as:

    take the chopsticks, ReWiND, StoPTiME,
    SWinG ‘em in the cooking haze, a
    magic wand, soaked with other world
    spices, soy sauce & moments that

    hang fragile on chinese lanterns, web-thin,
    tumbling in the wind, ink drops, spilled

    on parchment, on the streets we walked–

    Claudia, I hope that you and Brian both enjoyed your adventure(s) in N.Y. City…Once again, tks, for sharing your adventure(s) and your very [poetic] words.

    deedee ;)

  20. I noticed, you have a whole lot of world famous followers commenting on your work, C … Good for you . but count me out … from now on …. Always, cat

  21. You rocked it… it’s very surreal and evokes my own memories of a West Coast China town.

    moments that
    hang fragile on chinese lanterns, web-thin,
    tumbling in the wind, ink drops, spilled
    on parchment, on the streets we walked

    it’s almost tangible!

    Awesome write Claudia :)

  22. Love this title Claudia – talk about pinch my imagination right out of its socket…
    and the opening stanza is has a wow factor og 9.985… just missing out on a clean ten because somehow i felt 9.985 looks like a greater sum :) – i always say it but your work constantly feels like a slice of the most poetic novel – Henry is sooo right – More Please! ;)

  23. the last lines reminds me of the smell of a book store with new books versus the smell of the books in an old musty library. i guess it’s the napkins and how they might smell, they are paper…i don’t know, that’s just what i thought of. and i LOVE smelling new books.

  24. What I loved here was how you use all the senses to punctuate the story – like the exotic scents wafting over the piece, the way the exhalation and inhalation of words like “BReaTHinG” accentuate the smells, the alembic mixture of soy sauce and spices – wavering like the smoke of sesame oil too hot in the wok. Beautiful work.

  25. I love the speaking “half english, two-thirds chinese”… I love the lanterns, web-thin… the ancient and diced fragments, the blending of flavors and friendship… I find this piece endearing… how you skillfully recreate these moments, this memory…. this was a tasty piece to swallow….

  26. I’m quite fond of Chinese napkins as well…. and fortune cookies too, even though I think they’re not actually in China. I don’t know why exactly, but your poem reminded me of an episode I once saw, I think from “Tales from the Dark Side” or “Twilight Zone” or something like that where a man went into a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie that actually predicted his future. So he went back and kept ordering more and more to get more fortune cookies and couldn’t leave… (yes, I know it’s a strange connection to make)

  27. Some people absurdly believe that napkins are for laps. Many of us could attest to the fact that they are for directions or more likely poetry! If I could count all the poems that started there… :)

  28. I hope you kept it, but the poetry you’ve made of it seems just as precious and just as revelatory of the windings and meanders of the soul. You always show us how our souls get caught in the moment, how time latches itself into us and unveils so much fullness of itself and you (us). I believe that’s significant, not just because we take so much of everyday moments for granted but because it’s them guide us into who we’ll become. Your maps of these journeys are always delightful but also welcome in their ability to help us orient our own bearings.

  29. the owner holding the door to ensure the “right direction” was a perfect touch to what felt like a fragilely-faintly-scented string of moments

    so to end with,

    “BReaTHinG– carrying the scent
    between ancient & sliced fragments of today” -

    felt perfect ;-)

  30. I am soaked in soy sauce and dripping bits of eggdrop from my elbows as I travel out the door from this poem, Claudia! Fabulously successful word imagery, dear girl! How could I possibly get lost on my way after that?

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