The Vietnamese Restaurant and other poems

by Zach Fishel


The Vietnamese Restaurant

For Ammon

The soup always comes out and steams my friend’s glasses.
Intricately painted bowls and tiny saucers of basil and peppers
are simple planets we orbit as the slurp of our spoons halt all talk.
This isn’t an intricate planet, but a nightmare god walked out of without
waking from. My friend thinks that’s why he never answers.
I add Sriracha and fish sauce to the broth, as the broken English of
our old waitress stares across the counter. She knows each week we
arrive to watch the tendons and tripe float around like our own organs
in the broth. We’re dressed like dirty laundry,
covered in textbooks and grading sheets,
rubrics on what qualifies for passing.


Settling in Toledo, OH

Once the payphone on Collingwood Boulevard
Started ringing like the woman on fire who leapt

from the nunnery I slept in for two bitter winters.
We would crush PBR cans and launch them past

Victorian chandeliers coated in minimum wage
and regret above the theatre that housed countless runaways,

hobos, and hookers who slept with bruises.
When the woman on fire knew everyone

was putting her out I watched the houses rot
like out of season farmers markets. The weeds grew

in the parking lot as she claimed to understand Icarus.
You can still see the crack looking down from the east wing.


Thanksgiving in New Jersey

For Mike D’Agnili

The city yawns behind the cold
streets of North Jersey as a confused

flock of turkey meander through
curbside recycling, the blue boxes little

pieces of the sky as a joint is passed
around the outdoor fryer.

Inside laughter rises from the chimney
as sisters and aunts mince onion

with gossip. Italian hands
working odds and ends

into family traditions,
pointing at Black Friday deals

in between clinking glasses of red wine
spilling on the unworried carpet.


Janesville, PA

The sixteen year old boys dreamed of girls
and paychecks from the paperbag grocery store.
Casting lures out into the black, the splash just the sound
connecting them to the lake. The fish were out there
listening to their blood run its course, their questioning of
how to find big water as fireflies sought the right connection
to continue living. Eventually the fish pulled the line,
forcing them to pull back against their own tensions.
Shirtless on the rocky bank, seeing the night come undone,
holding the fish by the jaw. They didn’t imagine
what it meant to grab life and drag it home.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Zach Fishel is an outdoor guide, poet, and educator currently living on a reservation in North Dakota. His most recent book, Blue Collar at Best, is available from Words Dance. Recent work has appeared in Red Paint Hill, Fox Chase Review, The Lindenwood Review, Blast Furnace Review and Night Ballet Press.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Rear View Nude in Window

photo by Sally Davies


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