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About this Poem 

“As the poem describes, a friend was introducing me to sushi before I flew back to Texas from Vermont. It was a normal afternoon except for the fact that I had recently decided to stop looking at my phone so often, at least when I was out and about. If I hadn’t done that then when I was sitting across from her in that restaurant and the sunlight broke in through the window and fell on her, I probably wouldn’t have noticed her hair come alive. It’s so easy to take the mystery of the world for granted when we stop looking at it.”
—Tomás Q. Morín

Before the Airport, Sushi

The old man sitting out front
on the empty patio eating
fried chicken or something or other,
bought up the block probably, and not
from the house of sushi
we were entering,
didn’t inspire confidence exactly,
but when you returned
from the wall of fame to our table
with your chopsticks
in the box you decorated
how many years ago I forget,
and told me regulars from way back
need never use the disposable ones
wrapped in paper like straws
that are not smooth
like yours that looked polished
and like they were cut from a yew,
unlike my conjoined sticks
that were little more than gargantuan
toothpicks for some race of giants
that I had only to separate
with one clean snap
and prove were fool proof,
only the engineer who had retired
on the patent for the design of my chopsticks
never met a fool such as I
and so the operation was a failure
except for your laughter,
an unexpected development
for which I would have botched the next set
on purpose, and the next
only our seaweed salad had arrived
and it was time for me, a lifelong worshipper
of the miniature shovel and pitchfork
to stumble across a tiny plate
with my Chinese finger crutches,
only I didn’t and before I knew it
my hand was Fred Astaire on stilts
and the seaweed salad was gone,
followed by half the maki,
and there was only the one pink piece
that separated from the crunchy roe
and its rice wheel that I spit out
because it felt like a tongue
and tasted of death,
which makes perfect sense
because it was dead,
and had our meal ended there,
I would now be celebrating
the virtues of keeping an open mind
to new food, instead of how
life can surprise us so much, one day
I’m not eating maple syrup on a steak
or cheese by the block like everyone
who’s never been to Vermont
would expect, rather sushi
and mastering chopsticks and looking up
to see a golden braid of hair
I had never noticed was golden
unraveling against your shoulder
so slowly that it looks alive
so much that for a moment
there are suddenly three of us
at the table: me, you, and your braid
that you don’t seem to care
is losing what only a few minutes
before I would have called a battle
with gravity, except now I understand
the pull of the earth
isn’t always harsh and impatient,
that it can be gentle, can nudge
a twist of hair loose
and in so doing, slow down time
and that song about goodbyes
and the heavy wrap of winter
that fills the sky of every airport town
in late summer, slow that music
down just enough to make a soul
with two left feet like my own
jump up and dance.

Copyright © 2015 by Tomás Q. Morín. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2015 by Tomás Q. Morín. Used with permission of the author.

Tomás Q. Morín

Tomás Q. Morín is the author of A Larger Country (Copper Canyon Press, 2012). He teaches at St. Edward’s University and lives in San Marcos, TX.