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Awaiting My Translation into Paradise by Peter Jay Shippy

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So one night Dino and I were talkee-
Talkee in Du Mars, the coffee shop
At Laurel Canyon and Ventura.
"Guess where Miss Sofia Coppola
Shoots-the-chute when she's in Paris?"
The adobe ceiling was terra cotta
And striated like the Burgundy Room's
Beef tartare. Dean, who happened to be
A card-carrying character actor
Embossed his left eyebrow and hissed:
"There isn't a knife in sight." I held my fists
Between the neon chandelier
And the elephant's breath wallpaper
Making hand shadows, forming
The Mandarin character for: I shit you not.
At the counter, two surgeons
From St. Jude's spread cinnamon goo,
Crossing their steaming Bangkok
Buns. This was when the evening
Grew a beard, when Los Angeles spoke
Only on commission of anonymity,
When this dude walked in wearing
Black Levi's, quartz-capped Doc Martens,
A white cowboy hat and a Nudie suit
Boasting rhinestone marijuana leaves
And Benzedrine capsules stippled on rose
Of Sharon with the legend "Sin City"
Stitched into the lapels. Dino looked
Green looked lit by borrowed light.
I drew my blue thumbnail over his upper
Smooch and flicked away a tealeaf.
The hipster fed a dollar to the jukebox
And punched G-7, Serge Gainsbourg's,
"Folie ˆ Deux." He parked
At the counter and ordered a salmon Reuben
To go-go. "My juices register a "1"
On the pH scale — chaste acid," he said.
Without looking up, one med
Replied, "Seething bile is a necessity
For a critter that subsists on moon-
Bleached bones." This whet my hearing aid.
The other cutter passed the lone wolf
A Tiffany's box. He paid his bill
And made to walk out the door until
He caught Dean's gawk and boothed with us.
He opened the little blue, fished out
A syringe and infused the thunderclouds
Under his eyes. "Fetal foreskin cells.
They come with pristine provenance.
One, two, three beats for me to measure
Your countenance. You pass. I've been
Aweather. Out in the desert near
Joshua Tree digging for muktuk
And potatoes — if you get my drift —
When I was set upon by an apsaras.
A visitant? A swan maiden? Femme
Mescal? An insinuation? A voice-
Over artist? She carried a bow made
Of yucca strung with a line of killer
Bees. She struck a match, lit her tits
And chanted thirteen times, 'Let's burn,
Motherfucker.' So poof — I disappear
And find myself here as a wham-bam-
Thank-you-man-with-a-plan: I must cook
My looks and make myself worthy
Of alliteration of translation
Into paradise. Believe me, gentlemen,
I'm not the stooge who goes out for a pack
Of smoke and never comes back."
We exchanged cards. Later, walking south
On Zuma Beach towards Drainpipes,
Watching bikini-stripping swells, Dean begged:
"So where does Miss Sofia Coppola
Shoot-the-chute when she's in Paris?"
I cuffed my chinos and ran into the sea.

by Peter Jay Shippy

originally published in Horizon Review

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Filed under: Poetry

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