Cafe Royal 06/08/2018

For Kerry’s Prompt today at Real Toads, Spec Fic (speculative fiction). We are to write a poem that is based on Spec Fic, dystopian, furturistic, horror, gothic. I am adding a new poem to my Dorian Grey series (character by Oscar Wilde).  The picture of the young Tony Bourdain is one of my favorites.  We were cheffing at the same time. I burned out and left the professional world, he stayed and became an icon.  He suicided, I am still here.  There is a lot of sadness about his suicide; we are of an age, had similar beginnings of our careers, we were at one point high all the time (it was a way of kitchen life in the 70’s and early 80’s), we both travelled extensively tasting food and experiences.  I miss him a lot.

Anthony Bourdain 1979


Cafe Royal 06/08/2018

“…your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
― Anthony Bourdain
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Oscar Wilde

The third cafe mocha of the morning,
The young man with the antique face
put down his cup and stared at the handsome waiters.
The Café Royal always had the most…delicious waiters.
His eye was arrested by one of the waiters
taking an absinthe to someone –
It was 11:00 am in the morning.
Surely too early for absinthe.
He spotted her.
At the table alone, grief in every inch of her body.
She put down the newspaper –
Lowered it down slowly as if,
as if it were a baby or a
mortally ill cat.
The waiter flamed the absinthe for her.
He said something to her.
She raised her eyes to him and then lowered them.
Picking up the absinthe,
Picking up the newspaper.
The young man with the antique face
continued to stare at her until
she looked up.
She saw him.
For once he was ashamed of his actions.
He stood and walked to her table.
She looked at him from head to toe
and said
Nothing.
She lowered her face again and
one of the gorgeous waiters came
with another absinthe.
Don’t, he spoke. Please don’t.
He put his hand lightly on her wrist.
I know grief he said. I know pain of loss
and heartbreak. I’ve watched my friends dying
One.
By.
One.
She put her head down and began to read the paper again.
Upside down he read:
“Anthony Bourdain, 61, found dead by suicide”
For once he was almost human.
For once he almost paid for her drinks and walked away.
Dorian Gray sighed. What the hell,
One only lives forever.
He sat down at the table
and looked into her eyes.

Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray – public domain photo

53 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. coalblack
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 08:09:26

    You’ve painted such a scene here. I love Dorian scoping out the waiters. Your description of the woman (you?) and of her handling of the newspaper made it vivid and emotionally rich. I also loved your depiction of Dorian, doing the right thing for once, or at least “almost” doing it. Really really fine stuff, Toni, and with our Anthony referenced as well.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 08:25:28

      This is one of my favorite pics of Tony – young and full of piss with tangles of noodles caught on his apron with knife in hand cutting sushi on one of the inevitable pine boards we all used in the business at that time. Used them until they became unusable, tossed in the dumpster and a new one bought. We were cooking at the same time. We were all of us high as kites in a typhoon back then. I burned out. He kept on. He suicided, I am still here. He was right when he said that the world leaves its marks on us, that some are beautiful but most of them hurt. And yes, for once I inserted myself into one of these poems.

      Reply

  2. anmol(alias HA)
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 10:56:15

    Ooh, this is gripping and leaves you longing for more. As tragic as it may get, it’s macabre how that is the most satisfying in a way. I like how you capture the character-sketch (in a poem) and create this intense scene through the mere power of glances and a knowing idea (or a certain nod of acknowledgment) you would expect from someone perusing your written word. Lovely!
    -HA
    P.s. That’s Dorian from Penny Dreadful if I am not wrong. I really enjoyed some of the episodes of that show.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 11:11:46

      Yeppers it is. I loved the Penny Dreadful series. I think this is the 8th Dorian Gray poem I have written. I love the writings of Oscar Wilde. The Cafe Royal is where the Aesthetes hung out back then and the Rich people who kowtowed to them. I have actually visited there in London several times and gotten well and truly hyped on their magnificent cafe mochas. Thank you for enjoying this. It means a lot.

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  3. Magaly Guerrero
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 11:07:12

    I really like he looks that waiters almost in the same way he might look at something he can eat–so very Dorian. And the phrase “antique face” works fantastically for this character. Without having to describe his features in details, the poem still tells us exactly what he looks like, what he is…

    Reply

  4. Sherry Marr
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 11:13:29

    You took me right into the scene. Wonderfully done.

    Reply

  5. Kerry
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 12:24:33

    I love the way you have contextualized this fictitious character and brought him into our present – the young man with the antique face.

    i loved Reeve Carney in Penny Dreadful role.

    Reply

  6. sanaarizvi
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 15:15:46

    This is incredibly rich and emotive, Toni 💞 Love how you weave intricate details i.e. the girl reading the newspaper while ordering a glass of absinthe .. and ofcourse him with “For once he was almost human.
    For once he almost paid for her drinks and walked away.” Sigh.. 💞

    Reply

  7. Björn Rudberg (brudberg)
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 15:15:57

    This is how I imagine your Dorian Gray,… there is something close to Anne Rice in the story, and how he (almost) feel pity for the girl he’s about to seduce (and destroy)… a line from a song pops up in my mind… “i must love what i destroy and destroy the thing i love” from Sting’s “Moon over Bourbon Street”

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 16:27:32

      And that song always reminded me of the vampires of New Orleans. Almost he feels pity but…

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  8. Frank J. Tassone
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 15:48:48

    Pure perfection, Toni–from the opening lines to the photo selection of Reeve Carney from “Penny Dreadful.” Mira and I watched so many episodes of “Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.” I miss him, too.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 16:26:32

      I met him a couple of times on the cooking circuit. A fun man, a serious man, a curious about everything man. There are many people who miss Tony. I came so close to suicide the day I walked out of the restaurant, the day I stopped cooking professionally. I came so close.

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  9. MrsBednar
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 16:46:30

    Well done! You took me there and made me feel the emotion. My son introduced me to Dorian Gray and Oscar Wilde. What a handsome photo of Anthony! I just started watching his series about six months ago – was shocked when he died – who knew – he seemed so perfect for what he was doing – hard to believe he was so unhappy.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 17:20:29

      I don’t think it was unhappy so much as the dark caught up with him. I enjoyed the Penny Dreadful series and had actually seen Reeve Carney in his role as Spiderman on Broadway. I can understand Tony’s darkness. I almost succumbed to it myself when I stopped cooking professionally.

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  10. lifelessons
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 17:09:51

    Considering Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Robin Williams and Nick Jagger’s lady– I forget her name–all incredibly successful artists of some sort and all suicides by hanging, it is a lesson to all of us that fame and success don’t necessarily bring happiness. I consider this every time I write another poem instead of sending something off to try to get published. The joy is in the doing and accomplishing, not in the wide acclaim.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 17:18:31

      I agree with you about sending off poems to be published. I write for the love of it. I was not acquainted with the circumstances behind the people you mention. I had met Tony a few times. Being an ex-chef, I hightly identified with him. His death really hurt me. The other people I felt sad for those they left behind but…

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  11. Laura Bloomsbury
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 17:20:41

    this is almost too good ( dare one say enjoyable) to comment on without sounding banal but the picture you paint is marvellously vivid – the scene comes to life with each successive line
    “The young man with the antique face” – beautiful and hence so very sad

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 17:22:06

      Thank you Laura. Yes, the face of Dorian must have been creased with sadness in spite of his eternal youth.

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  12. Grace
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 19:11:10

    You painted such a mesmerising scene, it gave me chills and sadness ~ I still don’t appreciate why people with so much talent want to kill themselves when there are people who really really want to live despite their health challenges.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 28, 2018 @ 19:22:26

      I don’t understand it on one level. On another, I totally understand it. I almost suicided the day I walked out of the restaurant and left professional cooking behind. I had traveled extensively, eaten all kind os food in all kinds of cultures. But it left me feeling empty. I have severe depression. Suicide has nothing to do with the health issues of other people. It is a deeply personal choice.

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  13. V.J. Knutson
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 21:39:27

    Intriguing…have to confess it evoked many different emotions.

    Reply

  14. Gay Reiser Cannon
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 21:56:18

    Wow! Powerful piece. You had me from the beginning. The poem took me to a memory that is not a memory but the feeling of a memory of a place that I have been but rather than what happened then and there..this happened then and there and I stood witness, I was awestruck and I will always remember it. That’s a helluva good write!

    Reply

  15. rothpoetry
    Jun 28, 2018 @ 23:31:40

    I really like the repetition through out your poem. Amazing how you tied in the death of Anthony Bourdain with Dorian Gray!
    Dwight

    Reply

  16. clayandbranches
    Jun 29, 2018 @ 03:35:18

    Thank you fo speaking up about depression. I’m afraid it still carries a stigma in this world we live in.

    I was haunted by Wilde’s character as a teenager–worried that I was going to stay young and foolish and easily corruptible for the rest of my life. Not worried about that now. I’m definitely aging, not so gracefully, not so painlessly. I see my teenage view of ‘corruption’ as both annoying and endearing. I like how you humanized Dorian Grey, made him one of us: still too beautiful to look at, but compassionate and, therefore, someone we can forgive.

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 29, 2018 @ 09:06:18

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I frequently post about depression and have made no secret about my ongoing struggle with chronic depression. Also, I periodically post a blurb about suicide and a number to call. This is something that has touched me deeply.

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      • clayandbranches
        Jun 29, 2018 @ 11:15:08

        It’s a brave thing to do. It touches me deeply as well, but I tend to hide behind metaphors rather than say it outright. The world is a scary place and feeling vulnerable is not fun at all.

        Reply

        • kanzensakura
          Jun 29, 2018 @ 12:26:19

          No it isn’t. But years ago I said to myself…what the fuck. Let’s go for it. I have gotten beat down few times, I have been raised up more.

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          • clayandbranches
            Jun 29, 2018 @ 14:29:01

            You’re right. Crawling into a foetal position doesn’t help anybody.

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            • kanzensakura
              Jun 29, 2018 @ 14:56:12

              Nope. But sometimes we need to in order to come out again swinging. I regularly post a blurb on my FB page about suicide hotline. It doesn’t get any comments and very few likes. But somebody may see it some day and be helped.

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              • clayandbranches
                Jun 29, 2018 @ 15:14:58

                Thank you for doing that.

                Reply

                • kanzensakura
                  Jun 29, 2018 @ 15:18:56

                  It’s okay. I do it out of love for a dear friend who committed suicide last year. Very quietly, the way most of them do. He put his cat and dog in the vet (boarded them) and left instructions that if he did not pick them up by Tuesday to call his brother. Well, Jeff didn’t pick them up so they called his brother. His brother checked on him first before he picked up Duncan and Seelie to make sure he was home and found Jeff dead. Jeff had been withdrawn for a couple of weeks and we called him, tried to go by and visit and he wouldn’t have any of it. His mother had died the previous month. It was the last straw for Jeff who had lost his lover a couple of years earlier. So I post this notice. You never know. We certainly didn’t although we were worried about him. He cut off completely.

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                  • clayandbranches
                    Jun 29, 2018 @ 15:42:39

                    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. These things are tough to live with. The survivors feel helpless and guilty and angry, all at the same time, and are left wondering what else they could have possibly done to help. But it’s hard to help somebody who cuts off all communication or goes to great lengths to hide the pain. So keep posting that information. As you say, you never know who might need it, even if they don’t necessarily reply.

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                    • kanzensakura
                      Jun 29, 2018 @ 15:53:33

                      Exactly. Tony Bourdain’s suicide hit me deeply for many reasons. I can’t let time go by without reminding eople they have a choice. I can’t save my friend Jeff, but I can maybe save someone else.

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  17. lillian
    Jun 29, 2018 @ 08:35:12

    Toni:
    Your insights are powerful….I crawl inside this poem with you.
    I am so very glad you are here, with us, in this world we call life.

    Reply

  18. hypercryptical
    Jun 29, 2018 @ 15:57:25

    How sadly apt Anthony’s quote in relation to Dorian Grey’s chosen lifestyle.

    It is a long time since I read the novel, but your words capture his character well, his life of attainable possibilities, of sin of debauchery, his conscience cleared as his portrait aged, its ugliness bearing his undoubtable pain as he careered from one evil act to the next.

    Your words show his conscience in that for once he was ashamed of his actions (towards her), that he understood grief and that he almost became human. But then…

    I am glad that you survived your dark time, your burnout Toni. I am so sad that Anthony did not. Sadly that dream of a ride oft becomes a nightmare.
    Anna

    Reply

  19. Frank Hubeny
    Jun 29, 2018 @ 20:28:24

    Nice twist on the expected phrase: “One only lives forever.”

    Reply

  20. kim881
    Jun 30, 2018 @ 02:24:57

    I didn’t know who Anthony Bourdain until I read about his suicide in one of your Facebook posts, I like the way you’ve linked your sadness at his death with Dorian Grey, and I can see how you might link the two, in that one wanted to die and the other wanted to love forever.
    As I read your poem, I am about to make my first mocha of the morning, so even though I’m more than a day late reading it, it’s kind of timely. 🙂
    I love the phrase: ‘The young man with the antique face’ and the way Dorian eyes up the ‘delicious waiters’ before he spots the absinthe-drinking woman..

    Reply

    • kanzensakura
      Jun 30, 2018 @ 03:19:05

      Thank you Kim. Tony’s death has affected me deeply. He was a unique soul – he could slice you with his tongue but…he never laughed at the people whose food he ate. Be it the food of poverty of the coal miners in West Virginia, the poor in Bhutan, the wealthy in Austria…never. He always ate what they offered him with honesty. I almost suicided the day I burned out and walked away from professional cooking. I’ve said it before, I burned out but he didn’t. I lived and he died. Go figure.

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