for Haruki Murakami
We sipped tea. Politely musing
on possible reasons for the success
of my books in your country. Slipped
into talk of pain and humiliation
you find occurring, and recurring,
in my stories. And that element
of sheer chance. How all this translates
in terms of sales.
I looked into a corner of the room.
And for a minute I was 16 again,
careening around in the snow
in a '50 Dodge sedan with five or six
bozos. Giving the finger
to some other bozos, who yelled and pelted
our car with snowballs, gravel, old
tree branches. We spun away, shouting.
And we were gonna leave it at that.
But my window was down three inches.
Three inches. I hollered out
one last obscenity. And saw this guy
wind up to throw. From this vantage,
now, I imagine I see it coming. See it
speeding through the air while I watch,
like those soldiers in the first part
of the last century watched cannisters
of shot fly in their direction
while they stood, unable to move
for the dread fascination of it.
But I didn't see it. I'd already turned
my head to laugh with my pals.
When something slammed into the side
of my head so hard it broke my eardrum and fell
into my lap, intact. A ball of packed ice
and snow. The pain was stupendous.
And the humiliation.
It was awful when I began to weep
in front of those tough guys while they
cried, Dumb luck. Freak accident.
A chance in a million!
The guy who threw it, he had to be amazed,
and proud of himself, while he took
the shouts and back-slaps of the others.
He must have wiped his hands on his pants.
And messed around a little more
before going home to supper. He grew up
to have his share of setbacks and get lost
in his life, same as I got lost in mine.
He never gave that afternoon
another thought. And why should he?
So much else to think about always.
Why remember that stupid car sliding
down the stupid road, then turning the stupid corner
We politely raise our tea cups in the room.
A room that for a minute something else entered.