My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording)

My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar

Blue-tinted and red-mouthed, you light a cigarette
that glows green between your lips and smells of
menthol and old coffins, burnt fruit and days carved

into lonely minutes. I mumble hello, and because
you never speak, order a tulip of double IPA, which the
bartender sets in front of me. Longing to ask someone

in authority to explain the protocol in such matters,
I slide it over, but of course you don’t acknowledge
the act. The bartender shrugs and I munch on spiced

corn nuts. I wish I could speak Japanese, I say, or cook
with chopsticks the way you did. We all keep secrets, but
why didn’t you share your ability to juggle balls behind

your back sometime before I was thirty? And I still
can’t duplicate that pork chili, though my yaki soba
approaches yours. You stub out the cigarette and immediately

light another. Those things killed you, I say, but what the hell.
As always, you look in any direction but mine, your face
an empty corsage. What is the half-life of promise, I ask. Why

do my words swallow themselves? Who is the grandfather
of loneliness? Your outline flickers and fades until only a trace
of smoke remains. I think of tea leaves and a Texas noon,

of rice balls and the vacuum between what is and what
could have been, of compromise and stubbornness and love,
then look up at the muted tv, grab your beer, and drink.

* * *

“My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar” was first published in The Lake in December 2018.

39 thoughts on “My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording)

  1. Pingback: My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording) – Fae Corps Inc

  2. Sometimes, I dream of my father… Your poem echoes with what I feel when I see him on those edges of sleep… Distances, never bridged, never even fully comprehended. And then, the door is fully closed, the ghost whispering through the keyhole on the other side…

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mother did not speak to me in my dreams for more than a decade. When she finally spoke, she said in a broad, midwestern accent “You could stand to lose a few pounds,” which was quite startling, as that was a phrase she never would have used, and her real accent, even after living in the U.S. for 50+ years, was heavy on the Japanese. The questions are still unanswered.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How powerful, and it feels like the imagery from your words dips into a wave, then escaping. Like reaching into a painting, but not being able to fully grab the objects in it. That is such a complex theme you weaved here quite eloquently, either the mutual understanding and connection, and at the same time, a sort of disconnect from differences and places in life (perhaps literally or metaphorically). It is indeed lingering, and I can’t help but feel this one is going to stick with me for awhile. A very stirring piece. Such visceral writing, as always. This is surreal.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: My Mother’s Ghost Sits Next to Me at the Hotel Bar (with recording)

  5. You state: “I wish I could speak Japanese”. It is not exactly an easy language, but it is a very satisfying language to speak at any level. So I would suggest learning as much as you can, because speaking only a few words is better than none at all. Plus, learning the kinds of words and phrases you want to speak keeps a student excited and motivated, rather than boring standardized textbook stuff. The book “How To Sound Intelligent in Japanese” is a great book in this regard. A few decent text books and the advanced Pimsleur audio stuff, and you will be off to a great start in speaking conversational Japanese. Ganbatte!

    Liked by 1 person

      • The Pimsleur audio stuff is a great intro because it is repetitive, and the book has a lot of great little words. The only thing missing is a good grammar book you can consult. Not study per se but consult, since such books can be very overwhelming if you try to “study and memorize” the material within. If we remember that NO ONE can become fluent in any language from just study materials, then we can avoid negative feelings: comparing ourselves to others, being intimidated by the info we have yet to study, getting too attached to accumulation rather than expression, and so on, the things that stop us from continuing after we start.

        You and I don’t feel bad because we don’t know every single word of the English language or every single thing that Stephen Hawking said, yet we demand that of ourselves in our studies of second languages. The only Japanese that “counts” is the stuff we enjoy saying, talking about pie, sex, beer, amazing cuisine, and such.

        And what better way to honor your Mother than happily connecting to your heritage, rather than having it be a rough, pedantic slog?

        “Japanese: A Comprehensive Grammar” is fantastic, but they sell it for over $100 on Amazon! Unreal. It is a big book, but that is a rip off unless you are going to study Japanese for decades and attempt fluency. Personally I love it, but it is an investment in one’s self rather than something one should buy then lose interest in and leave n the shelf.

        Liked by 1 person

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