Saturday, June 06, 2009


[To mark the union Kimi Omi and Carroll Braxton in Oakland,California]

by Frank Chin

To Quan and Omi


A brick building used to stand three
stories tall and two blocks long
where groves of colored bamboo now
grow thick enough to hide the ruins
of the rubber plant where the Old
Man used to work.

The Old Man and the Old Woman
managed the Company-owned Eclipse
Hotel next-door, and watched the
empty lot of bamboo stand up like
scared hair. Then they bought the
hotel and the empty lot of bamboo.

The Old Woman looked off of her
pedestal five brick stories high. Her
feet were a long way down to the
flat roof of the only five story tall
brick left standing, for blocks and
blocks all around.

All brick and five stories up. She
kept her feet and set the sights of
her eyes down five stories to the
ground and off into the distance of
city block, after city block of broken

Every block was a broken cement
flower pot. Every pot spilled over
leaves of grass, flowers and weeds.
An occasional seedling sprouted from
a discarded pit. A date palm. An
avocado. A peach. She knew them all.

The Old Man built her waist high
tables around the glass skylight, to
plant her garden. She fingered and
handled every seed, every root, of
every herb, every tomato, every
eggplant, and, her pride and joy,
every tree in her grove of living
bonsai. Miniature trees, fingered,
and groomed into the memorable
characters of history.

Her hands had coaxed a cutting
taken from an oak on Steuben
Street into a mass of knots that
bulged like the muscles of the
Muscleman for Good. A furry
cypress Bonsai grown from a cutting
taken from one the trees that used
to line Washington Street, she hand
twisted and tied to lean as if bent by
a wind that tore with the whiz of
arrows over the head of the
Drummer Girl. Her eyes look from
the high ground on the enemy down
below. What she sees she beats to
her lover, on a drum. She bends but
never cracks.


A pear, an apricot, a peach, a couple
of different apples from seedlings
found growing in empty lots, and
seeds, pits and cores thrown from
stray cars. She knew them all.

Now and then she went out to search
from block to block for the long dark
green leaves of mustard greens, the
rippled yellow green leaves of
dandelion greens. She found a
growing Wintermelon.

It grew large over the summer.

She cut it loose in the fall. The
Wintermelon was too large to get
her arms around. She put the melon
under her loose gown and tied the
apron to hold the melon against her
belly. She was built to carry babies.
But the Old Woman and the Old Man
grew old without having a baby. Not
one. She carried the melon home
singing like a mother.

The Wintermelon was larger than
her largest pot. She wanted a pot
large enough to put the melon into,
to soup for an hour, and large enough
to remove her Wintermelon as whole
as it went in.

She and Old Man ordered a pot from
the blacksmith a mile’s walk past the
blocks of sidewalks become
flowerpots sprouting tall weeds and

The blacksmith delivered the pot, on
his pride and joy, a wheelbarrow,
with an inflatable tire, and a brake
on its one wheel.

“A brake!” the Old Man says. “Wow!”

“It’s handy for going downhill.”

“You’re a clever man,” the Old Man

“How do I get the melon in and out
of the pot?” the Old Woman asks.

“I’ve provided a sack to hold the
melon when the two of you put it into
the pot. Add water. Boil. Grasp the
edges of the sack, to pull the melon
out of the pot whole.”

“Ah!” the Old Couple says.

“All the people of the Scar heard I
was making a large pot for a large

“Where did they hear this?”

“From the blacksmith himself, of
course,” the Old Man says. “People go
to the blacksmith for ironwork, tools
and fittings.”

“Like us,” the Old Woman says.

“And people like us see he’s at work
on this big iron pot.”


“And we ask the Blacksmith,
‘What’reya workin’ on? ’”

“They are all coming with food,” the
Blacksmith says.

“What kind of food?” the Old
Woman asks.

“Pigsfeet in black vinegar. Whiskey
chicken. Partially boiled eggs. Thick
rice soup in chicken broth. Shell the
eggs put them in the soup . . .”

“Good,” the Old Man says. “How
about chicken and pork broth with a
few peanuts . . .”

“Oh, yum. To put inside the
Wintermelon to steam?” the Old
Woman says.



The Wintermelon Festival left happy
memories and became a holiday in
the Scar to celebrate the memory of
the first Wintermelon Festival.


Over time she took the seeds of the
leafy plants she and the old man
liked to eat, and planted them in two
blocks, and palm trees to block the
wind from the sea, across the

In another block, a walk away, on the
rise to the old concrete road into
Tea City she tended pines, cypress,
evergreens grown from cuttings.

They looked like Christmas trees as
tall as a very tall man. They didn’t
really impress with their might, vigor
and height when she took the look
from her roof five stories up.

The life she tended in the blocks all
around the Eclipse Hotel would be
gone, with the Eclipse Hotel sold and
built as something else before the
trees grew to a size that they could
take care of themselves.

The Company was taken to court by
Tea City and forbidden to sell the
waterfront industrial fill, the
Company had filled, compacted, and
built on. Tea City claims dominion
over the land. The Company claims
the right to sell to anyone they want.
They won’t sell to Tea City at Tea
City’s fixed price.

The Old Couple are former
employees of the Company, like the
few people that chose to stay when
the Company left. Then Tea City
wanted the land at its the toes.

The Country, going through an
identity crisis, Tea City and the
Company agreed the employees had
no rights. The Company and Tea City
were on their way to the Country
Supreme Court.

The Old Couple and the people living
on the Company Scar lived spread
out over blocks and blocks and saw
each other only on market days.

They saw the Old Woman they called
the Tree Lady out picking plants and
taking cuttings. They waited like
bugs for the winner’s oblivious foot
to come stepping down on them a
crunch underfoot on their walk to
money, big money, pretty money.

“But today everything is ok,” she said
as she went out every day but rainy
days, out to her blocks for new trees
to take cuttings from and grow into a
tree, or a bonsai. Other days she
went out to tend the trees, in one lot
or the other. Or tend her garden of
green favorites.

On rainy days she did what she did in
the evenings. She made umbrellas,
children’s furniture, toys, and
trinkets, and kitchen tools, garden
tools, objects and machines that
stretch the imagination of the
bamboo the old man cuts and brings
home from the forest next door.


Every day the Old Man went to the
empty lot next door, and cut bamboo
all day, every day, rain or shine till
the last light of sunshine slipped
through a crack in the sky, bounced
down through the fingering of small
leaves at top of the bamboo, down
off the polished shine of swaying
stalks of bamboo to where sunlight
started to rust and darken.

He had just sat down for lunch and
already it was getting dark. He
wanted to be out of the creak and
breaking bones of bamboo before
the darkness began to clot and
cottage cheese.

He was lost! How could he be lost in
the bamboo forest one block wide
and two blocks long?


Snow on the ground kept the light
late in the forest of bamboos. Snow
quieted everything down. Where did
the snow come from? He followed
the patches of snow to a light, a glow
promising warmth in the bamboo. The
glow soothed him as he approached.
The air turned cold. His breath
became white puffs that faded as if
imagined. He wasn’t at all terrified.
He was cheerful stepping through
clots of darkness onto the crunch of
odd snow underfoot that caught his
eye with an icy sparkle every step he

He was drawn closer and deeper
among a growth of magnificent blood
red bamboos. He knew he had never
seen these bamboos before. Blood
red stalks as big around as small
boats would have stuck in his
memory. He had a memory for odd
bamboos . Blood red bamboos were
very odd.

These were the fattest bamboo
stalks he had ever seen. Up they
went, shimmering red and turning
black all the way up the long, very
tall stalks that swayed, and cracked
like masts in changes of the high
air’s weight and movement. He heard
the rubbing of high air as the hum of
happy women above him.


Friday, June 05, 2009



He followed the light to a brightness
that came from low to the ground.
He eyes through the shadows and
stalks to a single stalk, and a pair of
red rubber boots on the ground near
the freshly thickened base of a
thick bloody stalk that still dripped
wet earth and oozed.

The glow came from inside the third
node from the ground. A cool
cantaloupe melon light blurred the
shape inside the bamboo.

“Forgive me, Old Bamboo,” the Old
Man said.

He unpacked his fine-toothed
crosscut pullsaw. He cut a window
into the third node. He looked

He saw a doll that was as shapeless
as a flame. He reached for the
flame, it was cool. He was surprised
the grip of his fingers came
together empty.

The glow was alive and ran to the
window and jumped off the back of
his hand into one of the red rubber

He repaired the bamboo with the
section he cut out and a paste his
wife made for him, out of rice,
bamboo sawdust and water.

He emerged from the cold of the
forest of red bamboos into the
sweatiness and knocktalk of the
bamboo forest in summer. Then out
of the of long stalks and into the
dark of night, the heat of the season
and the cold of an empty
neighborhood of blocks and blocks
shaved bald of buildings. The
bulldozers and dumptrucks were
gone and haven’t been back.

The stars and the dark of night was
uninterrupted by buildings, telephone
poles, yardarms, wires and cables
strung between the yards. He
remembers them on this street when
he was a kid and misses them like
the uncle home from a war he misses
from when he was a kid.

Over here about five blocks, there
was a light from a house, and in the
five blocks along First Avenue, a
duplex lights the dark, and way over
there another house, then a triplex
on Chemical Avenue, all bought from
the Company in happier days. They
can only hope when the Company sells
the industrial waterfront Scar, Tea
City doesn’t claim domain and they
will get more than they paid the
Company for the only building left
standing for blocks around.

Lights from the neighboring houses
are so distant they’re as dim as the
glint in the Old Woman’s eye.

The only real lights around are on at
the Eclipse Hotel, the building the
old couple managed then bought in
better days.

APT. NO. 9

In their fifth floor apartment
Number 9 the old man puts the living
doll that glows in the red rubber
boot, on the chair the Old Woman
had just put together.

“She’s beautiful,” the Old Woman

“I can see,” the Old Man said. The
outpouring of her glow seemed to
have been absorbed and he could see
the living doll indeed, was a beautiful

“This must be the child we have
always wanted,” the Old Woman said.

The Old Man found a note in the
other red boot. “I don’t want her.
You can have her. She’s too bad for
me.” The note was signed “Moon.”

“What does the note say?”

“It’s just rubber company
advertising for boots.”

What did the note mean? The Old
Man wonders. Who was Moon?


The next day, he goes into the lot
next door to cut bamboo. Just as
every day, rain or shine, he goes into
the crazy hair forest to cut bamboo.

One day in the following month he
found himself lost among bamboo he
had never seen before. He found a
pair of gold rubber boots with a
layer of California eight sided gold
pieces he deposited in a savings
account in the bank.

He dreaded getting lost in the
bamboo forest. Not that he
suffered a terror when he was lost.
But dread is dread.

Still, every day, rain or shine, dread
or no dread, he goes into the bamboo
forest to cut bamboo. Every time he
gets lost inside, he finds a pair of
colored rubber boots with a layer of
jewels or gold or silver on the soles.

Once he found a pair of boots with
the soles filled two pearls grown to
fit the soles. He deposited the
treasure in the bank. The Old Couple
took out the amounts needed to care
for and provide their girl, a care and
a provision at a time, ever since.

She has grown from a doll sized
miniature girl to full sized six year
old brat, in two years.

The old couple hire the hotel’s
tenants to help care for their visitor
and keep her strange existence

The gardens and groves grow in pots
on tables around a thick chickenglass
skylight, on the semi-flat roof.
Dusty light sinks down the five-story
well of the carpeted staircase.

The door to the indoor corridor,
around the stairwell, between
apartments is closed and locked
against strangers who land on the

A blackhaired moonfaced girl with
full moon lips and moons over her
dark eyes, stands under the skylight.
A shadow of smoke passes in the sky

The old man inserts the key to the
door, but suddenly looks over her
head, and sees nothing. He looks
down and sees the girl. She holds a
pair of yellow boots to her chest like
a teddy bear.

“You sure you live with us?”

“Don’t fool!” she throws a little fist
at his leg.

Her eyes are bright and round and
dark as two eclipses. Her lids rest
half way down her bright pupils. She
looks calm, relaxed, sleepy.

“We live on the highest floor in the
building. The air should be moving up
here,” the old man says.

She breathes. “I breathed this air
yesterday. And the day before that.

And last week. I’m tired of
breathing this tired air over and

“You sure you don’t live with the
twins Koko and Pele downstairs?”
“Come on, open the door.”
“Don’t be so bossy,” the old man says.
“What are you going to name me?”
“We’ll see what the Namer says.”
“How about ‘Flower?’”
“We’ll see what Namer says.”
“How about ‘Pretty?’”
“How about ‘Beautiful?’”

“Beautiful? I like Beautiful.”
“ ‘I like beautiful!’” he imitates her.
“Admit it, you’re vain.” He looks at
her and his mood changes.

“Are you feeling all right?” He puts
the palm of a hand on her forehead,
to feel for fever. “I can’t get over
how your face brightens from the
inside, like a Jack-o’lantern,” he says.


“A Halloween pumpkin with a candle

“My face is not Halloween.”

“But I feel a candle inside your
head.” He takes his hand off her

“You do not!”

“See your face glows with light from
the inside.” He puts his hand
between her face and the wall. He
wriggles his fingers. “See the

“Is that good?”

“You cast faint shadows, like the

“The moon?”


She goes straight through the
apartment to the short hall at the
back door and her collection of
rubber boots.

“I want to wear my boots out in the

“Good idea. That’s what rubber
boots are for.”

“But nobody can see me.”

“People will see you, but I’ll take you
out in disguise. No one will really see
you. But the day will come when you
meet the Namer, barefaced.”

Her face dimmed before the Old
Man’s eyes.

“Shh! Shh! That’s all right. A Namer
keeps all the names living on the old
company land we call the Scar.”

“That’s not what I mean!”

He is shocked by his urge to bow his
head to the little girl and apologize.

“Then the Namer introduces us, and
we introduce you, What’syourname
as our daughter to society. It’ll be
fun,” the Old Woman says stepping
aside the open door and sweeping
them in.


“People from the Scar have to see
you, to say you’re real. You are real.
Very real,” the Old Woman says.

“But not everyone has to see you,”
the Old Man says. Just the Namer
and the neighbors on the day you’re
named. Then you’re gone. A fading
memory. Never to be seen again.”

“I want to go out in the rain first.
You said you’d disguise me. And no
one would know it’s me.”

“Yes. That’s what I said,” the Old
Man said. “The next rainy day.”


Thursday, June 04, 2009




Heat out of the darkness all night
long. The light of morning strikes
like a match. Buildings all over the
city open their mouths to breathe.

Windows with and without fire
escapes gape open.

The light struck the Old Man’s eye in
the kitchen. He wears an undershirt
that shows his armpits.

“Red boots, and yellow boots,”
What’shername said.

The old man shook the newspaper in
his hands. He glanced at the girl in
the blink of a turning page.

“Uh huh,” he said. He turned his
chair out of the sun.

The girl said, “and boots of dark
blue rubber. And rubbers of light
sky blue.”

“When it rains. When it rains, slip on
your boots and I’ll take you out.”

“What color will I wear?” the
nameless girl asks”

“It doesn’t matter. They’re all


Another hot airless morning.

Nameless opened the back door to
her apartment. She let the light
outside come in. It sizzles away the
shadows of the back hallway and
heats the rubber boots of different
colors lined up on the floor.

The old man put his paper together
and threw a look. “Are you doing
something on purpose?”

“Boots of all different colors from
white to black.”

He opened his newspaper and said,
“And they’re all yours.”

“They are?”

“It’s important to keep a little girls
feet dry.”

“Rubber boots really look cool.”

The next morning the backdoor is

The light through the open door
sparkles on her rubber boots.

“They shine!” she says.

He flaps the newspaper like
butterfly wings, and turns a page.

“The colored rubber they’re made of
shines like wetness,” he says.

They did? She looks into the dog
nose of the black boot she has put
on. She drools a gob of spit splat
onto its toe. She sees a hazy mirror
image of herself in the toe she’s
wearing on one foot.

“And when they get wet, the rubber
is slippery,” nameless says. He
crumples the paper in his lap and
looks towards her.

“And the shine is bright,” she says.

“Did you use water from the toilet to
shine those boots?” the Old Woman
asks from the back stairs.

“No. Papa said rats swim in the

“Right. And so they do!” the Old
Woman says.

The Old Man asked, “What’re ya
doing with your boots on?”

“You said you’d take me out with my
boots on.”

“When it rains! When it rains! It’s
not raining now. Not a shadow on the
ground. Not a cloud in the sky. Not
chance of rain today. ”


“Why? Boots without rain aren’t


“ ‘Why?’ ” the Old Man asks amazed.

“Yeah. Why?” the Old Woman asks.

“Because rubber is waterproof.
Rubber boots don’t make sense on
feet unless they’re keeping water
off the feet.”

“That’s stupid!” the girl says.
“My sentiments exactly.”

“Hey! Who’s older here? I’ve been in
many rains. Many many rains.”

“I have too,” the girl said.

“But not all over the world. I
remember the rains I’ve been in. I
was caught by a rain in Spain without
my boots on. I was caught barefoot
in Malaysia by a heavy rain with
drops as large as ping pong balls
popping all around my feet. Rain got
in my shoes in Milwaukee. It wet my
fuzzy socks. And my wet socks
squished when I moved my feet. I
felt like I was walking barefoot in
the spit of thousands between my
toes! Ugh!” He shudders. “It was
awful. But spit-shining your boots is
the way I used to shine mine. Just
don’t get any juice on the floor.”

“You’re being disgusting on purpose.”

He raised his eyebrows at her. “Ooh!
Disgusting. You’ve been talking to the
Old Woman. Just wait. The next
time it rains, when it’s boot-time, I’ll
show you the rain.”

“How will I know it’s a rain?”
“And not a drizzle?” the Old Man

“Or just a shower,” the Old Woman
“Yeah,” What’shername says.
“You won’t go out in a drizzle?”

“How will you know you’re not out in a

“You will not take me out in a

“A drizzle sounds like pop bottle
bubbles popping on the windows all
over the house.”


“You won’t go out to see what’s
making the sound of fuzzy bubbles
on the windows?”

“No fuzzy bubbles.” She shakes her
head. “No! No! No! No!”
“How bout a shower?”
“No! No shower! No! No!”
“A shower sounds like baby flies
flying into the windows.”
“Baby flies?”
“Little rain drops…”

“No little rain drops.”
“…that now and then raise a ding
that sings in the glass.”

“No! No! Not little rain. You said rain.
So, rain.”
“Oooh! You really want rain?”
“What’s rain like?”

“Oh rain! Rain drops of a rain are big
and fat and sound like they hit the
glass hard enough to break.”

“What about me?”

“Whaddaya mean?”

“Will the rain break me?”

“Stop your cute kid act! The rain
isn’t acid. The rain is drops of water
flicked from the fingers of a giant.”

He puts his finger to his thumb, nail
to nail. “They fall on you and feel
like a stranger doing this…” His
forefinger springs off his thumb and
smacks Nameless’s cheek.

“Ow!” Nameless says.

“Don’t cry. That didn’t hurt.
Remember when a moth crashed into
your cheek?”

“Maybe a little sting.”

“When it rains it will hit a lot of
little stings. They will be cold. Most
rains come with a cold touch on a
cold day.”

“The rain will touch me?”

“Rain begins with drops as big as
moths, millions of them. They fall out
the sky and tap on the windows like
the fingertips all over the house. You
hear the rain tapping the glass and
see rain clinging to all the windows.
That’s how you’ll know it’s raining.”

“When it rains, I will wear one red
boot and one black boot,” the
nameless girl says.

The next day is sunny and bright.
Not a cloud in the sky cast a shadow
on the street.

The Old Woman sweats in her
chemise. She smokes a cigarette in
the shadows of the kitchen, with all
the windows and back door open. She
put the cigarette between her lips
and took the newspaper in both
hands just like the Old Man.

“Have you seen a lot of rain?”
nameless says.

“A lot of rain?” the Old Woman
snubs out her hand rolled cigarette.
The Old Woman blushes Nameless
feels in her face. From where the
Old Woman sits she can see the
smoke slowly eddying toward the
backdoor. She touches the ash end
with a fingertip, over a brass hat
ashtray. She puts the butt behind
her ear. “Yes. A lot of rain. The
next rainy morning daylight, we’ll get
in our boots and raingear and go
walking in the rain. I want you to see
raindrops clinging like clear beetles
hanging upside down to the joints of
a spiderweb. Look up close and you’ll
see the spots on their bug backs are
reflections of the world upside down
in a raindrop.”


Wednesday, June 03, 2009




Early one morning What’shername
hears a clatter out of the sky like
lumber tumbling off a tall truck. It
crackles out of the rolling darkness
of daylight. The air sounds heavy.
The crashing lumber becomes booms.
She feels each boom squeeze her
from the head down to the bed-legs
to the ground. Taps and ping pong
balls on the windowglass. She opens
her eyes.


The Old Man locks the back door.
With What’shername between them,
the Old Man and the Old Woman
rubber boot through the apartment
and out the front hallway door.
Along the carpeted corridor to the
stairwell. Down the carpeted stairs.
Light through the skylight and
windows is as dark as early night.

Rain squirms worms down the hallway
windows were transparent shadows
on the walls.

There they are again, on the next
turn, down, and again, on the same
place, five stories down.

The water sounds like a choking
throat inside a three-inch pipe. The
pipe coughs a splash out, makes more
choking sounds before throwing
another gush.

Gray and silver water flows a slither
of large snakes in every gutter at
the edge of every block in the Scar.

The Old Man points at the fat
snakes twisting in the gutter.

“Don’t step into water that looks like
that. And if you have to step into
water like that, do it only if you have
your boots on.”


“You never want to step in water
where you see rainbows floating
darkly on top without having your
boots on.”

“Floating rainbows?”

“Look into the pool of water on the
blacktop of the streets the gutter
water that sometimes collects at the
stopped up corner sewer. The
rainbows are pretty. They are dark
as poison and may be made of stuff
that eats rubber and then your
socks, and then the flesh of your

She reaches for the sound the dark
side of the darkness.

“Don’t touch,” the Old Man says and
too late holds his finger up to stop

She steps in the pool of slick water
with crumbs swirling on top. She
bends to look inside the sewer. The
Old Man sweeps his hands under her

arms. Suddenly she’s out of the
water. Her boots and feet down on
the sidewalk. “That water is full of
dark rainbows!”

“Oh, no!” Nameless says. “I forgot!”

“The sounds of the sewer. They
invite. They deceive,” the Old
Woman says.

“That means they’ll fool you! The way
they fooled you into forgetting what
the Old Man said.”

“What did he say?”

“Don’t chase your hands into the
dark of a sewer after the sounds.
And don’t step into water that leaves
crap and shit on your boots.”

“Oooh! Bad word! Bad word!”
nameless says.

“That’s how much I hate the crap
and shit in the sewer water.”


Nameless bends to brush off the
stuff and ick stuck on her boots.
“No!” the Old Woman says. “Don’t
touch. The Old Man will wash your
boots off.”

The rain drops crash and burst on
the concrete. A slick of raindrops
slops across the sidewalk and
trickles off the edge of the curb as
clear water into the water full of
thick stuff that bubbles up and
poofs a smelly belch that leaves a
fizz in the water.

Water rattles off the roof into the
chuckle of a roof-gutter, into a
three inch drainpipe for a five story
fall down. Somewhere down inside
the pipe, the pipe gulps.

They walk into the shadow of five
story red brick buildings standing
shoulder to shoulder. Red brick and
concrete closes in and shuts out the
light on either side of the brick

Words they uttered awhile ago
bounce back to them. Colors change
moods before their eyes. The reds,
and yellows. The green and purple of
their boots and rain gear has
definitely changed color.

The Old Woman stands behind
Nameless, as the Old Man lifts one
of the girl’s legs and holds the leg
and boot under the mouth of the

A flower of water bursts white vomit
out of the pipe. Then a long rush of
water that ends in a wheezing sound.
The air in the alley is darker than
the streets at the ends of the brick.
The air seems filled with a purple
spray that gives the air a creepy

And then the other boot. The yellow
rubber glows a sick green Nameless
hasn’t seen before. The leaves
lapped and shining as threatening as
fisheyes leap forward around the
mouth of the pipe and the water

flowers white petals out of the

mouth like a charge of vomit.
“I don’t like what’s growing on the
pipe,” Nameless says.

He lets go of the yellow boot.
“I don’t like it,” Nameless says again.
“And you?”
“I don’t like it,” the Old Woman said.
“Nobody likes the green of the

leaves growing round the pipe?”

“No!” the Old Woman and
What’shername say together.
“That’s the Pukinji Phenomeon,” the

Old Man says.
“What’s that?”
“Look! The light at the end of the

alley!” He said hard and high and
pointed. They looked.

“The Pukinji phenomon is happening
in your eyes are blasted with
brilliance! Everything goes black. Not
quite black. You now see through the
eyes of the rods turned on to seeing
in purple. But the cones are still on
to color that’s not there. The greens
seem to be aware of you.”

“You mean they’re not?” the Old
Woman says.

“I know they are,” Nameless says.

“How old are you?’” the Old Man

Mr. Prince
The nation wants to be everything
the country is, and on top of that, it
wants dominion over the highest
mountain within its borders but it’s
owned by ancient land grant.

The owner of the largest mountain in
the nation trades the ancient title to
the mountain for the same ancient

title to the hundred eleven square
miles of shoreline known as the Scar
at Tea City’s toes. The nation gets
its highest mountain and he gets a
hundred and eleven square miles of
fill-land and beach.

He’s the perfect owner. His trade
with the nation gives him the power
to rule his 111 square miles of
industrial fill like a prince for as long
as he stays on his land. He honors
the contract the Company made with
the former employees. He provides
water, power, sewage. He pays the
Company what they want. He rules
his property the way he wants and
that’s all right with Tea City as long
as he pays his City taxes.


Today the nameless girl gets her
name. This morning the old man
wears a shirt over his undershirt.
The Old Woman is dressed for the
occasion of their girl receiving her
name, in front of society. “That’s all,
just the loners on the old Company

Scar,” the Old Woman assured
nameless. “Only the neighbors.”

The Old Woman walks into the
kitchen with the neighborhood
keeper of names. Everybody’s
Namer is a lady.

“Pretty Beautiful Flower’s gone I
don’t know where she is,” the Old
Man says.

“I’m right here.” Nameless sits on
the floor with her boots, in the back

“In the kitchen,” the Old Man calls.
“Time to and get your oil and battery

“She’s beautiful!” the Name Lady

“Is that her name?” the Old Man

“Her skin glows.”

“I was born out of Bamboo, in the

“Bamboo ‘Take’ Snow ‘Yuki.’ Name:
Takeyuki,” the Namer says.

“Takeyuki,” the Old Couple says,
hears her name in their voices, and
“Oooh!” they like it. “Tah-kay-yukiiii.”

As the sun goes down and the air
turns blue as a bruise and closes
around the neighborhood, Takeyuki
emerges to be introduced to the
neighborhood. Her face glows.


One day a filthy rich spoiled young
man knocks on the Eclipse Hotel door
waves money and asks to see the
beautiful Takeyuki.

Word has gotten out to Tea City of
Takeyuki’s other worldly beauty, and
been exaggerated and embellished.
He dabbles in a bit of poetry
himself. He has the money to make

her happy. It’s her’s if she is seen
and photographed with him.


More rich playboys and sleazy
playboys, playboys of the tabloids
hissing and snapping papzis and the
merely curious appear. The tenants
set up coffeehouses and noodle
shops in the empty lots next door.
The playboys send expensive gifts.
They send themselves disguised as
gifts. No one gets a sight of her. No
one hears her voice.

They write poetry, to the unseen
mystery, they write prose with a
subtle lot of alliteration on her
beauty or her neighborhood, they
write letters from the hasty beat of
their hasty hearts to the love of
their lives Takeyuki, a voice they’ve
never heard, a sight not one of them
has ever seen. They write short
gushes of words chucked from all
kinds of male hormones to Takeyuki
who they all love fiercely, and
competitively but not genuinely.

A year later the Old Couple have a
carp pond and a seafood stand for
the people walking in the park. There
are five rich playboys left. They are
famous for their devotion to a cause,
and identified by the
idiosyncratically colored and pungent
liquids they’ve become Takeyukifamous
for gulping in one swallow.

Five liquid colors in little hard
glasses: Gold, Amber, a Red that
flashes flame, on the gulp, a Blue of
beautiful eyes, and a thick liquid as
Green as dirt.

The five go to the Old Man in the
Eclipse Hotel and make him an offer
he can’t refuse.

“You’re old, Old Man. You’re going to
die soon. Who will take care of your
daughter then? Talk to her. Have
her meet us. Our year’s devotion is
worth something, isn’t it?”

“The playboys make a kind of sense,”
the Old Man says to Takeyuki.

The Old Man returns to the five
waiting playboys and says, “There are
five of you, and five tasks. Each of
you gets one task.

“Gold is to go to India and the Bodhi
tree the Buddha sat under, and bring
Takeyuki the bowl Buddha drank
from. She wants to see if it really
glows in the dark.

“Amber is to bring Takeyuki the
Chinese Fire Rat that stories say
cannot be burned.

“Johnny Red is to present Takeyuki
with a branch from the storied tree
with roots and trunk of gold,
branches of gold and silver, twigs of
silver, leaves of jade and fruit of
precious jewels.

“Blue is to sail to the mythical
southernmost island and snatch the
jewel of myth from between the
eyes of a dragon that is rumored to
live there. Present that jewel to

“Green dirt is to find the island of an
ancient myth a where a bird is said
to be born and flies away never to
touch land again except to lay one
blue egg, fly off for the last time
and disappear. All you have to do is,
bring Takeyuki a piece of that bird’s
blue egg shell that disappears if
touched by human sight.”

Years go by. Plants grow. The
neighborhood changes.

The Buddha’s bowl doesn’t glow in
the dark.

The Chinese fire rat burns up in a

The branch of the storied tree with
gold roots and trunk and branches
and twigs of silver, leaves of jade,
and fruit of precious jewels arrives
with six shouting unpaid jewelers
waving their itemized bills.

Four and Five are never heard from


Tuesday, June 02, 2009




The owner has transformed blocks
and blocks of empty lots into
parklands, a ritzy casino, a strip of
hotels and fancy restaurants from
around the world. Like a prince of old
Mr. Prince never leaves his land.
He’s taken the name Prince, for his
Principality. He spends as much time
hunting or fishing among the streams
and forests in the park as he does in
the glitter and pampered eyebrows
of the pretty. The Old Man is the
keeper of the bamboo and the Old
Woman is the keeper of the other
woods and plants.

Mr. Prince sends the Old Man a
message telling him that he will be
out hunting next Saturday. At 5
that evening he will stop by the
Eclipse Hotel. All the doors will be
unlocked and open all the way to
Takeyuki’s apartment and room. He
deserves to see every citizen of his
principality before he counts them

The Old Man apologizes to Takeyuki
but this time what he asks is real.
Mr. Prince is coming. The Old Man
and Old Woman owe the paradise
they brought the girl from the red
bamboo into, to Mr. Prince. They own
the Eclipse Hotel but he owns the
city-state it sits on.

Takeyuki knew her parents would
betray her.

“No. No! Yes. We apologize,” they

At precisely 5 o’clock that Saturday
Mr. Prince, the Prince of the
Principality dismounted his horse and
walked into the Eclipse Hotel, walked
up the five stories of open doors to
Takeyuki’s apartment Number 9. The
sight of her was a sudden punch in
the stomach. He didn’t see she was
with the twins from downstairs, Koko
and Pele.

“Marry me!” blurted out of his

“Because you own the ground I was
found on, I will marry you. Then I will

“Don’t fade!” he says. “Please, don’t
fade. I won’t marry you. Forget I
mentioned such a thing. Everyone,
forget! Forrrrrget! Everyone!”

“Believe me,” Koko says, and Pele
joins her, “it’s forgotten!”

“You are a funny man,” Takeyuki says
to Mr. Prince.

“I think…” Koko or Pele begins.

“They want to be alone?” the other

“Girls!” Takeyuki says.

“We have to make a fresh pot of

“Actually I’d prefer a cappuccino,”
Mr. Prince says.

“Two cappuccinos please,” Takeyuki


Mr. Prince became a regular visitor.
He and Takeyuki spent time on the
roof admiring and painting the view
of the mountain he used to own.
They looked from the roof down to
the tops of fir, cypress, spruce and
pine trees planted by the old woman
and wrote poems.

“Cypress bark makes good rope. It
doesn’t lose strength or rot no
matter how many times it gets wet,”
Mr. Prince says.

“If pine lasted forever like Cypress.”

“If cypress had the heart of pine.”

“I think it tries!” Mr. Prince

Laughter blurts out of her mouth
before she can cap it with her hand.

They watch the darkening of the sky
over the trees. The mountain
changes as it’s lit by the rise of the

“Your people have a story about the
Moon tying the wrists of lovers
together with a blood red cord,” Mr.
Prince said.

“The blood of the moon is moonlight,”
Takeyuki said.

She embroiders a Hokusai memory
of a yellow full moon shining on a
snow streaked top of the perfectly
shaped mountain Fujiyama rising out
of the mists of Japan on a starry
night. He sees it is the view of his
mountain from the rooftop of the
Eclipse Hotel. She gives the
embroidery to Mr. Prince, and tells
him the smoke between the top of
his mountain and the moon is yet to
be embroidered.

“It’s not important. I can’t wait to be
alone with this little bit of you.”

“You may take it only if you promise
to bring it back when I have the
proper thread.”

“Only if you promise to sew it in my

“Of course, I promise,” Takeyuki

“I promise,” Mr. Prince says.

The Old Man found Takeyuki crying.
“What is this? Mr. Prince and you

have both blossomed since you met.”
She told him her real father was

coming to take her home on the 15th
of August.
“Home?” the Old Man asked.
The Old Man wrote Mr. Prince.

Mr. Prince flexed his political muscle.
Tea City patrols the roads that
border Mr. Prince’s Principality. Mr.
Prince sends masons to build a wall
around the Eclipse Hotel grounds and
the expanded bamboo forest. The
national navy patrols the waters that
exit the streams and river into the

Not a fish, not a shrimp, not a clam
passes unnoticed.

Come the 15th of August.

The muscle power of Mr. Prince over
his principality are on the wall
around the Eclipse Hotel. A man of
his personal bodyguard is at every
window, on every floor, and eight
bodyguards on the roof garden of
the Eclipse Hotel.

During the day, the hot blue skies
are patrolled by predator hawks with
big eyes and speedy peregrine
falcons and owls with silent wings
and especially large eyes in the dark
of night. Nothing. Not a bird, not a

bat, not a mouse can slip into or drop
on the Eclipse Hotel by surprise.

Nothing does.

When the full moon rises, for the
night, there's no stopping the beam
off the Moon’s face that shines
down to the Eclipse Hotel.

Every window and all doors of the
Eclipse Hotel leading to Takeyuki’s
room flew open at the first touch of

Down the moonlight comes the
floating tread of ladies to their
Princess’s door. Takeyuki is
compelled to float out glowing into
the arms of the ladies come to
“bathe her, powder her, dress her
for her homecoming.”

“Her homecoming?” the Old Woman

“To the moon,” the ladies of the
Moon say.

“To the Moon!” the Old Woman
glowers at the Old Man.

“Come on! Look me in the eye and
tell me you didn’t know.”

“Oh, I knew.”

“Shut up!” the Moon gentles them
with coolth.

The Old Man and Old Woman can do
nothing but lower their heads and

The Moon tells the old man, “The
Princess was sent to earth as
punishment for some offense that’s
nobody’s business.”

“You made it our business,” the
weeping Old Man says. “You gave
your problem child to us. We loved

"But I provided for you all by
planting gold and jewels in the
bamboo for the Old Man to find.”

“Did you leave a toy, for her? A
note? ‘I love you, Dad?’”

“I gave her rubber boots.”

“Yes. You gave her rubber boots,”
the Old Man says.

“Prisoner’s boots,” the Old Woman

“You have no reason to complain," the
Moon says.

“We’re not complaining,” the Old Man
says. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t
have complaints, with and without

The moon ladies give their princess a
vial of the elixir of life. She takes
half and moves to give the rest to
the Old Man.

The Moon sees all and says, “No!”

“Might I give the Old Couple my
homecoming kimono as a keepsake?”


"Might I write to my friend Mr.
Prince?" she asks.

“Yes,” the Moon says.

What she wrote, no one knows. She
touched her lips to the letter and
slipped the vial of the elixir of life
into the letter.

“Might I ask you to deliver this to
Mr. Prince?” the Shining Princess of
the Moon asks.

The Old Man and the Old Woman
lower their eyes, and accept the
letter into their hands.

The Princess of the Moon says,
“Think of Takeyuki whenever you
look at the Moon.” She faces the old
couple and drifts up to the face of
the moon backwards.


Mr. Prince reads the letter and looks
at the vial of liquid.

If he drinks the elixir of life he can
have immortality. He can go to the
moon and live with the Princess
forever. But Mr. Prince is the soul
of his principality. If he leaves his
principality, before he fathers a son
to an age where his succession is
assured, the principality loses its
soul. Ceases to be. Yes, love is

He gives his bodyguard a secret
errand. “Old friend, a personal
errand. Take this letter and the
elixir of life to the very top of the
highest mountain in the land and
burn them.”

“The highest mountain in the land?”

“We used to live there. Remember?”

Mr. Prince’s bodyguard tells no one
who he is, what he has, where he's
going, or what he's going to do. He
talks to no one.

He walks three days to leave no
memories behind, to the highest
mountain in the country and climbs it
to the top for old times sake. He
sets a fire with the letter and twigs
from the trail.

Mr. Prince happens to set his eyes on
the embroidered silk made by
Takeyuki of the very top of Mt. Fuji
and the full moon, at the moment the
bodyguard empties the vial of the
elixir of life into the flames.

“Look, Baby Moon,” Mr. Prince says
to the shine who glows cool in a
rubber boot. “It is as Takeyuki says,
‘If one looks to the perfectly shaped
mountain, and the light is just right,
you can see a stitch of smoke write a
line from the top of the mountain, to
the moon.”