Kenzou Mai in the Millbrook Diner
Sitting at the counter in the Millbrook Diner sipping coffee, eating eggs and hash browns, listening to a child in the booth behind me disobey his mother who persisted in disobeying him. I stayed straight ahead at slices of pie in a chrome and glass container. I didn't want to catch the eye of the waitress or of the seedy fellow on my left, who kept blowing on his tea, but not drinking it. I didn't want to get caught in conversation about the unusually warm weather.
A little old spare Japanese man came in and sat on the stool to my right. He was like a dried leaf; seemed as if the big fresh wind blew blew him in, but outside there was no wind, just heat.
He wore a black kimono and had sandals on his feet.
His gray hair was neatly clipped. In a resonant voice he gravely ordered a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.
"Apple pie, cherry pie or rhubarb?" asked the waitress.
"You decide," he said
He looked at me gravely. "Hot out," he said, "isn't it?"
The waitress jumped in with eager information about the thermometer, the barometer, her husband's sinuses and her son's girlfriend's pregnancy. The seedy fellow on my left talked about the state of the county creeks: they were low. Kenzou Mai, the poet, ate his pie and sipped his coffee.
That was twenty-five years ago. I didn't know he was Kenzou Mai until yesterday when I came upon his book, "Cherry Pie". It told about about the waitress's husband and her son's girlfriend and the county creeks, and it mentioned the young girl on the poet's left,
her eyes the color of dark rain
like the county creeks in a good year.
So today I went to the Millbrook Diner. I haven't been there for twenty-five years. And I sat at the counter sipping coffee, eating eggs and hash brown, staring straight ahead at the slices of pie in the glass case and chrome container. There was no child behind me disobeying his disobedient mother. The fellow on my left wore a cashmere overcoat, smelled of aftershave and breath mints, and sighed continually. The waitress had a cough. It was unusually cold out.
And Kenzou Mai came in.
His kimono was blue.
Under it he had several other kimonos
and on his feet were very thick wool socks and heavy soled sandals
so he looked less like a dried leaf
than like a bundle of prayer sticks.
His hair was white and now he rode his traveling wind;
it didn't blow him around.
He sat down on my right and resonantly ordered coffee and pie.
"Pumpkin or coconut cream?" asked the waitress.
"What did I dream?" he gravely asked
She served him and he warmed his hands around his coffee cup.
"Cold out," he remarked, keeping his profile to me.
The waitress told about the thermometer and the barometer, her grandson's girlfriend's pregnancy, her husband's heart condition. The man on my left sighed.
Kenzou Mai ate his pie the flavor he dreamed.
I thought of the county creeks in a good year.
Kenzou Mai turned and looked at me,
his eyes the color of dark rain.