Lunch Special

    How quickly the old sadness comes back.
You strewn on a chair eating lunch
      alone, fat meatball parm
   slagged in front of you, book & notebook

   replaced by a phone. One other
couple in the restaurant, fanny-packed tourists
      pestering the waitress
   about biking the Brooklyn Bridge, No,

   but, what we mean is, Can we bike in this city
without a helmet? Nothing stirring
      but a vague desire
   to pluck one of Citibank’s new blue rental bikes

   off the mechanized rack outside
and ride the Bridge yourself, looking for some
      healing transport, some
   speed back to a wider, lighter selfhood,

   no cynicism about the Citibike
program, no regarding the rack an intrusion
      into “your” neighborhood,
   no judging the tourists stupid, needing to have

   their unhelmeted heads bashed in
by the bikes, but believing only in the blue
      slicing through
   the sunlit crowds congregating in the sky,

   a soloist’s note separating
the rest, launching ahead stupidly
      unprotected, capable
   of such huge, stupid questions

   that return it, in the end, to this table
unfed, stumped in solitude, so why bother?
      You are already there,
   here. And in truth you didn’t think

   of biking across the Bridge,
only added that thought as you set yourself
      to thinking seriously
   about your sadness. Every time

   the waitress comes to ask,
Are you okay, your face is full of parm,
      stuffed goon, and you think
   she must be a bored god just fucking with you

   on a random afternoon, Beckett himself
couldn’t script her timing any better,
      the whole room evacuated
   of even the tourists now, just you,

   your sandwich and your phone
and the waitress materializing from the wings
      to iron you over
   in spotlight, just as soon withdrawing

   as you nod, trying to eke out
a yes, the chorus of chairs around you
      silent, the windows,
   the bikes, the city. Your face is full of pain

   you chew and swallow so genteelly
in napkined-over bites, steering helmeted
   down this familiar
   back alley, gripping the handlebars

   of sandwich and phone, none
the wiser, all too imperious, thinking somehow
      you can get away
   with this, clenching and squinting.

*

Jason Koo is Founder and Executive Director of Brooklyn Poets. He is the author of America’s Favorite Poem (C&R Press, forthcoming 2014) and Man on Extremely Small Island (C&R Press, 2009), winner of the De Novo Poetry Prize and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award for the best Asian American book of 2009. He earned his BA in English from Yale, his MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston and his PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center and the New York State Writers Institute, he has published his poetry and prose in numerous journals, including The Yale Review, North American Review and The Missouri Review. Formerly director of the graduate program in English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he is an Assistant Professor of English at Quinnipiac University and lives in Brooklyn.

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