November 6, 1987 The Braid

The night we stood on the walkway of the bridge
Looking up at the full moon.
You looked down at its reflection on the river,
And said to me, Do you want the moon?
I’ll go down, get, and bring it to you,
A double handful at a time.
I looked up into your eyes
And saw you were speaking truth.
You are all I want. You are enough.
One year ago to the day
You had looked through your men
At me and said, your hair smells of Mitsouko.
And gently touched the long braid of my hair.

Seven years later, I stand at the same place
On the walkway of the bridge, alone.
You left a year ago.

You loved my hair – thick and wavy with occasional threads of
White. Soft and fine as a silk thread you told me.
You’d bury your face in it
After you had taken off the silly
Rubber band I used to hold the end of the braid,
Or after you had pulled out one of the kanzashi
You brought me back, watching
As my hair flowed down.
“nagareochiru taki” You would whisper.
“Sono taki wa kirei desu.”

I stand now in the same place you stood.
I try to reach back to
Those years ago you offered me the moon.
I try to pull together the essence of you
Tight around me like a cocoon.
My heart seeks the smell of you:
Bee and flower sandalwood soap, surgical scrub,
The heady musk of your skin.

Only the moonless night and the green cold
Smell of the river are with me on the bridge.
I pull scissors from my bag and begin to
Cut my braid at my nape.
It still smells of Mitsouko.
I throw it down into the river.
The river swallows it and keeps
Its secrets.

My Hovercraft is full of eels.

“My hovercraft is full of eels.”…Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu. 私のホバークラフトは鰻でいっぱいです  This is listed as a “useful” Japanese phrase on a website I recently visited.  I have not yet decided if the phrase is used to state distress or, to give an invitation to a sushi party. But you have to admit, it sounds cool:  Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu.  And it looks A-MAZE-ING.  Makes me want to do each letter on a long strip of parchment single character  and hang it someplace to impress people.  Maybe add a bit of gold leaf or something – get someone to cross-stitch it on a sampler for me to hang over the fireplace.

I have found that saying this Japanese phrase is a great way to avoid answering troublesome questions, or, to disguise what I’d really rather say.  I don’t want to say, “That is one butt-ugly haircut”, I just smile and nod and slowly say the “Useful” phrase.  The person who asked if I liked their haircut thinks I am saying something very wise and complimentary.   

When told, with a huge smile, “We’re having organic ramps, home butchered chittlins, and grist ground cornmeal mush and we’d love to have you join us for supper,” Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai said in a sad voice with eyes to the ground and my hands in the motion of palms up says to them, “I’d love to honey, but I am on this really weird diet and all I can have is raw hotdogs and grapes.”  They pity me and tell me a horror story about someone they used to to work with’s third cousin’s friend’s aunt-in-law who died on that diet and to please darlin’, be careful ’bout eatin’ those raw hotdogs.

“Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu” also sounds much better than “take this job and shove it in your navel and pull it out of your nostrils”.  I am very serious and earnest when I say this.  I look wise and considering and a foolish person thinks I am giving in to the inevitable and that I will do as instructed, although the instruction is stupid and will make a royal mess to clean up later down the road.  I then go back to my cubicle and proceed to ignore the stupid instruction.

It is also useful when said in English. When asked if I would like to go and see Rambo MCMLXX, or High School Musical: Class of 1949. I roll my eyes and twitch and say,”My hovercraft is full of eels”.  Or, “how would you like to go mall walking and check out the lingerie at Sears?”  I clutch my head and moan, “My hovercraft is full of eels.”  Needless to say, I am told to go and take a nice long rest and drink some hot tea.  This phrase is especially effective if repeated non-stop several times.  Makes quite an impact and elicits sympathy the way an emphatic I’D RATHER BE COATED WITH HONEY AND STAKED OVER A FIRE ANT HILL ever would. 

“Watashi no hobākurafuto wa unagi de ippai desu” is absolutely the…most…versatile Japanese phrase I have learned.  And I have learned eight so I should know. You may want to add it to your repertoire as well. Memorize it in both Japanese and English.  Practice it with different expressions in front of your mirror.  Supplement it with head noddings and hand gestures.  My hovercraft is full of eels my hovercraft is full of eels my hovercraft..… Oh yes……





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