Tonite at Maharani

For Lydia Abajo, Julius Soria, and Jeffrey Acido

Those foods confuse me so.
Masadas of what these are
Their names are not within my tongue's

Ability to say, repeat or mispronounce
The lamb chops that are not of God
Not an oblation but an obligation

To please each one to nourish
Each other by our evening laughter
By the generous servings of spices

Not from the Moluccas of colonizers
But from the trade of our warm bodies
Our tortured minds too, or estranged souls

All the sweat of the working class
On this night of our gustatory furlough
We who have come to try to be alive

We who have come to this new land
To talk about how we get out soon
And fast, get out of the murder we do to words

Or our sense of what is true and right.
Here at Maharani Cafe, we celebrate
Just like that. We order the abundant foods

Courtesy of the honoree, one of us
Who take all the good that is us
And it is so. First comes the baked

Bread, like the unleavened one
We dip with the sauce that comes
From the Third World. We smile

A la Third World to the colored servers,
Of course, even as we serve ourselves,
Wait on the whim of supreme bosses

Who do not know any better than us
About what gives in these days of want
In these days of meltdown: emotions we lose

To the mountain air and the rare
Afternoon rainbows that do not come any longer
But hide from us at the Hour of the Miracle,

At three in the downpour when crucifixions
Are repeated all over, again and again
And the colors do not come as they should

But the grey skies with their sorrows reveal
Themselves, their gift of sight a recall of rain
Their offering a pursuit of pain that lasts.

There are four of us tonight at this cafe
Where sadness is our name, laughter too,
In the interstices of silences we can afford

In between blobs of food gobbled up fast.
One of us: he has lived here, but has begun
To sing songs about our terrible people

Who do not know how to tell us their name
Nor write it on dust or sand or sick soil
But just, in the smallest of a shy voice,

Murmur to us what dark lamentation is
When you do not know where or how
To start narrating what we should tell

Or retell what we can reveal to ourselves.
The second, she takes care of the others
Those women who get all the blow

In life as from their betraying lovers
Hard knuckles against soft skin, theirs
And the inferno of words, sharper

Than a sharp dagger or a bolo
Or more certain than a bullet
That pierces through the silence

Of a Fall night in Maui or Ewa Beach.
The third, a raging teacher of memory:
He tells them all what is to be told

Including the sacredness of cuss words
And how you can only say that
To intimates or enemies depending

On which side of grief you are in.
I am the fourth: I write exilic poems.
Like this one, about what we cannot have.

We are all at Maharani Cafe on South King
By the sad University Avenue where elite diners
Whiling away their ennui queue up by the roadside

So they can wait to be seated
Go fuck the night to abort rest.
Remember it is the year of the furlough

And all throughout this land
Are our sweet sweet sorrow for having
Come here so far in order to dream

Of going to Jerusalem to pray fervently
To Rome to plead with dead popes for more saints
So that the litany of names becomes longer

So we have more to turn to in this city
So tourists will come over here to see our faces
So we can all serve them, the pilgrims

Get on with our lives with their tips galore
Or their alien kindness or their hopeful prayers
For us poor citizens of this preying universe

For us who go to Maharani Cafe on King
To taste what it is like to pay up like a king
Pay in dollars from the slave labor we do

So we can get somebody else's life going
To save ourselves from ourselves.

A Solver Agcaoili
Manoa/Oct 27, 2009

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