Saturday, April 26, 2014

After Benning Road pt. 1

I ought to be working, but after my poetry group meeting this afternoon, I am inspired to post again.  We (the DC Poetry Project) met at the Benning Road Library, a new neighborhood for me.  It was wonderful to see everyone (hi!), and we had a different format, too, to go with the new venue.  Will Dennis, a poet from San Antonio, led the event, performing his poetry and encouraging us to discuss the issues that his poems raised.  And, of course, we all read our poems...or performed our spoken word.  There were a few new poets, and Anastasia promptly collected their contact information so that they may join us at future events.

Here is the poem I read.  It is a little more emotional than my usual although it is about a fictional character.  I mention Chinese astrology in it as well.  See this link for more information about the rat and the rabbit.  

Even though this poem did not pertain to the topics we discussed, I was inspired to read it at the open mic because the poem is more intimate than most of the ones I read.  The depth of the discussion told me that I needed to go a little more deeply myself.

Thursday Night Is Date Night

On one side of a plate glass window
in Chinatown,
the tourists glance
at the chef who rolls out noodles
while upside down corpses
of ducks and rabbits watch.
Their glassy eyes see everything
and nothing.

Rats dart across the alley.
They emerge
from behind boxes and trashcans
and enter unlucky kitchens.
Their beady eyes see anything
and everything.

On the other side of a plate glass window
a waiter serves
slippery black and white noodles
to couples celebrating
Thursday night, Date night.

Alone again,
she studies the Chinese zodiac.
Her year is the Rabbit’s.
Her husband’s is the Rat’s.

To her, this explains
and nothing.

This poem originally appeared in Napalm and Novocain, one of A.J. Huffman's sites:

If you are interested in reading about the painful aftermath of love, Napalm and Novocain is a good place to go.

p.s.  Here is a link to an intriguing poem about the Celtic Zodiac:
There the signs are trees and plants, rather than animals.

BTW, I later found out that the Year of the Rabbit in Chinese astrology is sometimes referred to as the Year of the Cat.

Do you remember Al Stewart's song "The Year of the Cat"?


  1. One of my friends is into the chinese zodiac...I’m a metal pig and she’s a fire dragon so she always like I can’t run away from fate…I say just watch. (^_^) I like how you ended this…this explains everything and nothing…it’s optimistic even when the zodiac says otherwise. Always enjoy what you share at the workshops…you have a keen sense for detail.

    1. Thank you, Sly. :) I like your keen eye for detail in poetry as well. I remember the poem you brought to (I believe) Elizabeth & Michael's workshop in Columbia Heights. I think I like the Chinese zodiac better than I like the Western zodiac. The Druid zodiac is interesting, too, as its signs are trees rather than animals:

  2. Yes! In Vietnamese zodiac the cat replaces the rabbit. As for the Chinese zodiac, there is folklore that says that Buddha held a race for the animals, and the winners would have a year named after them up to twelve. Rat and Cat were best friends, but Rat betrays Cat and teams up with Ox to win the first (and second) slots of the zodiac. When the cat arrives, he straggling long after the pig (the twelfth). This is why cats chase rats.

    Year of the Cat is a good song!

    I really enjoyed this poem. I'll have to read more of Huffman's poetry.