Today's poem is by Hilary S. Jacqmin

Jughead, Mid-Life

In Tokyo, the long dream of Riverdale fades
                like spilled Hitachino Nest. Who was I back then?
Seventeen, my stomach an empty eel,
                no eye for women. I knew my way around
a short sheet. I knew Big Ethel's tears
                must taste like celery salt, and what
the secret S stood for on my ringer T,
                and how to bang out "Sex and Candy" on a drum kit.

Eyes shut—some dumb mystic—I could predict
                whether a random tin can buoyed SPAM, or chaw,
or licorice Altoids. But high school ended,
                and everybody scattered. Even Archie lost
his knack for wise-ass love triangles. At Oberlin,
                I found, the food was infinite, and infinitely bad:
grease-trap soft-serve; gristled albumen. I slept through
                Pornography: Writing of Prostitutes. I slept

through everything, until they didn't ask me back.
                And that was it for me. I mean, I lost my appetite
for Rutt's Hut rippers, fake IDs, and Philadelphia Story.
                My cut-up beanie, badged with stars. My belief,
that pure Americana, that anything could be finagled.
                Now, I make my way past love hotels
and rabbit caf├ęs, one hapless ex-pat among
                the salarymen. The subway smells like cut salami.

Is this Japan, or just an afterlife where nobody
                likes cheese? Every pal I knew back then
is bankrupt, mortgaged, or screwing someone
                on the side. Their kids have eyes as tight as ticks.
So I couldn't face the entropy of growing up.
                Here, I might be strange, but at least
the sunsets flame like diesel gasoline
                and the noodles are all hand-pulled, alkaline.

It tastes good, is what I'm saying. Like gold.
                Salt-packed, uncomplicated
as a demo reel. I still don't know
                what turns a woman's buckwheat gaze,
but I can melt pork bones
                into tonkatsu broth, and I've learned
some breakaway Japanese. Unbroken pleasure's
                larded like kae-dama. It's a soft-cooked egg.

Copyright © 2017 Hilary S. Jacqmin All rights reserved
from Missing Persons
Waywiser Press
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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