I am sad to leave you, My companion for all these weeks. Over your words I linger On my lips and in my mind. Soft moments from your past, Present in our here and now. A quiet leaf falling, A flurry of crimson in mid air. The glancing light on the sill, Departing when I look away.
In a nondescript strip mall, we saw Pho U. We were hungry and had already passed many fast food places, tempted by their convenience and familiarity. But we soldiered on in the light of a
departing dusk, E driving, while my eyes avidly searched for novelty along the road. We were in Chicago's western suburbs, their uniformity of chain stores and restaurants were mind-numbing.
Barely lighted with flickering streetlamps, Pho U stood next to an Uzbekistani restaurant. From the car, I could see the bustle and lights inside Pho U. Next door, in contrast, was the forlorn formality of white lace linens in an empty dining room.
We soon joined the bright bustle in what turned out to be a Vietnamese-Korean hybrid of an eatery. Bui Go Ki shared menu space with a handful of pho dishes.
The tables around us quickly filled up with Korean-Americans. The one next to us ordered a bevy of deep-fried appetizers, which smelled awfully good despite their unrecognizability as food products. Large bowls of steaming pho soon followed amidst conversations in Korean. I strained in vain to hear Vietnamese spoken in the restaurant.
We ordered pho ourselves. Mine came with a trove of seafood: plump shrimp, squid, clams and mussels still in their shells, and porcelain-hued fish cakes. The beef broth was robust, made sweet with fresh mint leaves and cilantro which came on the side.
We ate as a pouty tween from the next table engaged in cold war antics with her younger brother.
We shared a pot of green tea, poured into square-mouthed teacups; the tea, smoky like hay, and vegetal, was much like the tea I've drank in Vietnam.
The cold war antics between the kids came to a close, replaced by new activity to and from the front door, quick raps on its glass panes, and faces contorted in mutual sibling disdain made at each other.
I finished my pho and was full, but made room for dessert nevertheless: mini cheesecakes seemed too good to pass up. Soon, our waitress returned with an oblong tray arrayed with bite-sized pieces of different flavored cheesecakes. The piece de resistance, however, were the Craisins garnishing the plate.
Sweet cream cheese paired nicely with cups of green tea. We finished our meal, a cross-pollination of cuisines, as the overhead TV announced the score of the Packers' game.
A leaf whirls gently through the whistling breeze Pillowed by the light of noon Along its downward flight. From the distance, I hear A leaf-blower bray. It enters the scrim of sweet fall songs As the golden leaf comes to its rest.
October comes, And the leaves turn a golden russet. The mail truck drives Through a flutter of breezes. Inside, gray wool worn until soft, Brushes across my cheeks, Its slight weight on my shoulders. As I hold the warm bowl of tea And bring the first sip to my lips, You lie conch-like across my lap.