Home > Contributors > Wendy Kawabata > "After Kawabata's Thicket," a poem by Susan Goslee
 

Susan Goslee

 

After Kawabata's "Thicket"

 

A bramble. A big mess. A maze. Follow the insides of the branches

to get out of the basement back conference-portion of a casino.

But the birds want to get in to the berries, bright cherries you pull for.

The wild rose bush in my neighbor’s yard drapes over the fence.

 

In spring, these flowers thicker than the repeating blooms

on the acres of casino carpet, pouffier than a 0-degree sleeping bag.

Try to remember the outside. The birds rest behind the thorns

and look out. Tucked at the bar, we watched the people swarm

 

by. The waiter brought us sparkling water, red wine,

ravioli. There was a hook for my purse under the bar. It’d be nice

to start dreaming something different. In the picture, the birds

and the rose hips outline the only curves. This is winter.

 

The other punctures line up mostly in a row, follow

the crowd. The holes made by a needle? A thorn that leaves

the scar you run your fingers over? The rose bush

has pulled in on itself. The casinos spilled out onto the streets.

 

Christmas decorations dangled from balconies. My across-

the-street neighbors, their dog has a house built like

a little church. Some casinos shape pirate ships, pyramids,

golden glass towers. Here is the steeple. Open the doors.

 

We held hands down the strip. Everybody was buzzed

and beyond. Us too, a little. Exiting the service entrance,

making out by the loading docks, guessing our way

back to the street. The doghouse’s inside glows

 

all night. There’s a heat lamp in the top of the steeple

that warms Cheeto, sturdy little working dog, orange

and white, on cold mornings. A thick, colored extension cord

runs from the back of the doghouse, through the fence,

 

to an exterior outlet. I associate those with contractors,

carpenters, people who know what they’re doing

with their hands. The birds on their brambles are where

something has gone through the paper. The punctures

 

leak dark. Flying in, night was stitched with a tight,

tight weave of lights. Chickadees and pine siskins arrive,

fluff, settle, and leave. Waitresses delivered drinks in togas,

in nurse uniforms. A baker twisted high in a window box. The staff

 

danced on the bar and then when the song ended, stepped

down, and closed out their tables. Count rose hips, so what

if they’re false fruit. Birds and dogs think they’re treats. Happy

to try it. A whole apartment, ours, free for the weekend. A

 

gumball. A jackpot. The birds sit among them, surrounded by

wealth. He pointed out the high rollers tables. We noted the

more toned down décor. It wasn’t perfect, but it was fun to

spin the wheel. It was a funny place to play house. Welcomes with

 

coupons and matchbooks. We flew in and undressed each

other, nestled against one another. The gold and

red, the passing clouds flashed and shimmered below our

high perch, our retreat from the stratosphere. We

 

could have papered our home with flyers for

strip clubs that blew around our ankles, lined it with

strips of the linens from the forever-unfinished

luxury hotels. Hooked silver gum wrappers for

 

sparkle. Lucky for the chance to steal away, together. What

I’d trade for another dream. It’s a little hazy. They

allow smoking on the gaming floors. The birds find such

sweetness swaying aloft. But the dog has a snug house too.

 

I could roll this sheet with rose hips, house finches,

and almost bare branches into a tube. I’d feel the buds

from the back of the punctures against my hands.

I could hold it to my eye and spy the pup,

 

swing to the wild rose and see the birds inside,

point east toward him. I could flick a lighter.

And set the page on fire. Hold it, for a second, up high.

Cheeto raises his head from his paws.

 

My own shiny tower top.

My own machine, bright even at night.

It will catch the attention of my dreams.

A brief flickering light to beckon them home.

 

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Susan Goslee received her MFA from the University of Alabama and her PhD from the University of Utah. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Salamander, and The Cimarron Review. She is an assistant professor at Idaho State University.

All Responses:

Respond to a Prompt:

Submit your response to our current prompt(s). See our Submissions Guidelines page for details.

Susan Goslee received her MFA from the University of Alabama and her PhD from the University of Utah. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, Salamander, and The Cimarron Review. She is an assistant professor at Idaho State University.