Diorama, with Mountain City and Fog

This entry is part 46 of 73 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Winter 2011-12

On Friday afternoons, my father
sometimes picked me up from school
and took me with him up Session Road,

past Assandas, Bombay, and Bheroomull’s
department stores; then Dainty Restaurant
where the chess-players were by then deep

in their cups, and the air was fragrant
with the smells of coffee, soy sauce,
and sesame oil. In the alley, a rabble

of crows occasionally swooped down
among the garbage for scraps, driving
the cats behind the upstairs apartment

windows crazy. Farther, past Pines
Studio and Cid Educational Supply,
the entrance to Magnolia ice cream

parlor and Sky View Mezzanine.
There, he gestured to the maitre d’
named Lito, who soon escorted us

to the basement where father’s best
friend, Don Alfredo Blanco, held office
in a room musty with the cinnamon

and clove smells from the humidor, mingled
with a whiff of English Leather. I don’t
know or can’t remember what they talked

about for hours, it seemed; only
that they let me sink into the leather
armchair underneath a lamp and a poster

of a toreador in Spain, and I was free
to take out books from the low shelf:
The Count of Monte Cristo, The Great

Gatsby, and I turned the yellowed
pages and read or drowsed, until a hand
shook me awake and it was time to go.

Sky View is gone; I hear it’s now
a pizza parlor. And both men have
likewise passed away. Sometimes

I catch a glimpse in photographs
someone has posted on Facebook—
the old buildings, the wide sweep

of streets not yet choked by cars
and pedestrian traffic: the Chinese

couple who kept a shop called The Old
Pagoda, dipped brushes into ink to make
calligraphy; fingers of fog on the sleeves

of trees, their reluctance to let go too soon.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

Series Navigation← LegacyPreparing the Balikbayan Box →

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