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Japanese Buffet

by Bruce Cohen

Regulars hover around the Snow
Crab while the owners push
Soba noodles on the rookies.

In my Anglo community most men
Did time as Leather Necks and had
Parts of their noses bitten off in bar

Brawls on weekend furloughs.
Their kids are raised as pyromaniacs
All in good fun.  Who doesn’t obtain

At least one disfigurement
From a youthful mishap?
During the Edo Period the shamisen

Took the country by storm,
An Elvis instrument centuries
Pre-Elvis whose Muzak subliminally

Strums in the bathroom
As though there were spirits
Of concubines & geishas just outside

The stalls but the hand towels are
Not warm & purchased in bulk
At Sam’s Club.  I am partial to eel,

Ikura, raw quail eggs, sea urchin
& the new waitress.  I am not Zen
All the time about the proper tip

Being a buffet.  I fold my napkin
Into an origami football
& shoot it across the room

Into a boy’s bowl of miso soup.
Some men have no qualms
About screaming at other people’s kids

Who put back what they don’t want
With filthy fingers.
Some waitresses fetch high chairs

Without having to be asked
And deliver the bill while you’re still
Eating.  Green tea is so popular now!

Even Lipton has a line.  Even Queen Oprah
Praises it as a miracle diet drink! 
I am jittery all the time

Standing in line with the buffet
Masses for the early bird discount.
Because I eat alone waitresses pity me

With their painted Clinique
Lipstick geisha smiles.
I am thinking the eventual taxidermy

Of this joint will be strange once it
Changes hands & turns into a Bed
Bath & Beyond.  The loitering

Busboys cup their joints
By the garbage dumpsters.
The kid takes my paper football

& flings it back to me with his middle
Finger & his parents scold him
For invading my solitude.


Bruce Cohen’s poems have appeared in The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere.  A 2007 recipient of an individual artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, he has two collections of poems forthcoming, Swerve (Black Lawrence Press) and Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize. (1/2009)

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