Dispatches

Shinjuku Golden Gai and the Midnight Diner

By KAORI FUJIMOTO

Shinjuku, Japan

Shinjuku Golden Gai came to my attention during the pandemic months in Tokyo. On those quiet stay-at-home evenings, I watched the Japanese TV series “Midnight Diner” on Netflix, and the Diner’s location was set in Golden Gai, a tiny nightlife quarter that was once an illegal prostitution district in Shinjuku, a town in Tokyo, after World War II. Each self-contained half-hour episode of the show revolved around a customer who always ordered the same food at the hole-in-the-wall Diner run by “Master,” a mysterious middle-aged man with a scarred face. The Diner’s regulars, crammed at the U-shaped counter, ranged from corporate employees and detectives to strippers and gangsters. At the end of the day, these customers walked through the alleyways where electric signs of bars and restaurants jutted into the air, opened the Diner’s sliding door and said, “Master, my usual, please.” The show brought these characters a little closer to me through the foods they ordered. Octopus-shaped red weenies, bite-sized fried chicken, ground meat cutlets served with macaroni salad and finely-sliced cabbage—conventional home-style dishes I ate while growing up.

Shinjuku Golden Gai and the Midnight Diner
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64-West & KY State Fair

By D.S. WALDMAN

Kentucky, United States

64-West
After Calvino

When you ride a long time in the private
night of your pickup cab
                                 you enter eventually 
into a desire you cannot name    a greater dark
that wants only what 

64-West & KY State Fair
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Anticipating, Zebra Finches

By JOHN KINSELLA

 

Birds on tree branch

 

Avon Valley, Western Australia

Just below, a roo doe digs into the softest
soil it can find — avoiding rocks — to make
a hollow for itself and the joey heavy in its pouch;
it lifts, digs, turns drops lifts digs turns drops.

Anticipating, Zebra Finches
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The Battle of the Camel

By SARA ELKAMEL

Camels on the moon art painting

Camels on the Moon, 2021, Mixed media and collage on cardboard. Artwork by Sara Elkamel.

 

Cairo, Egypt

When you’re not looking
I try on your big brown shoes,

pick a spot to run to, practice ducking
from winged pellets on the street—

The Battle of the Camel
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How Living Looks

By ARIEL CHU 

Image of Taipei, Taiwan.

Taipei, Taiwan, December 2020

The three of us—Frances, Jay, and I—live in this rain-slick city, concrete buildings stained with runoff. At night, the streets stretch like black pools, glossy with reflected traffic lights. We stumble around half-closed night markets with our snapped umbrellas and damp socks. Our pockets weighted with bruised change, we eat charred oyster mushrooms crusted with cumin and rose salt, waiting out the rain under fluorescent storefront awnings.

How Living Looks
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Joss

By PATRICIA LIU 

Image of a river and houses on a hill.

Yunnan Province, China

Paper is thin. In the beginning, still billows in the wind, still petal-like, still grounded in this world 

of living. The incense is the only material that translates the viscera to mist. Early, the fog has not yet 

lifted, and we move through the white drip as if through total darkness. Fish lost in the deep under-

water. It is easy for water to find home in our bodies. How wonderful it is to think my father’s

dead father a translation of our living selves, the water in-between my cells, the same water of

ghosts. Of women and Buddha, of lotus flower and palace, of lion. See the shine of fire, even

now. See the smoke, encapsulated by the fog. My father tells stories of the state’s inexorable beckoning,

the brothers, and the sisters, too, sent to the countryside. What they remember most is the truck

and the dust, the broad shoulders of horse, that first night and its stars, the mass exodus of dragonflies

following the monsoons—but no, exodus is uniquely a human endeavor. My father cannot bring 

himself to anger; he knows it is shame that is the ugliest language. Somewhere, I have lost my place 

in the life-wheel, and the only words I know in Chinese are our names. Jiayu is rain. Jialei is rosebud. 

Only years later do I learn that Jiayu means jade. Only years later do I long for pure, unadulterated 

fortune over the ritual of early rain. Somehow, turn face to sky. Here. In memory, to burn is to revere.

Joss
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Ephemeral Address

By JAMES ALAN GILL

Camper

Tonapah Desert, Arizona

At night from this distance, the twin rivers of car lights, red and white, barely seem to move along the I-10, even though I know from experience they’re traveling upwards of 80 mph. Most people see this stretch of empty desert between Phoenix and the California border as nothing worth slowing down to consider—the different personalities of the Saguaro, some with broken limbs or holes made by woodpeckers, or the colored bands of rock created by volcanic uplift or erosion from some previous era when there was measurable rainfall here — it all looks the same from blurred car windows. 

Ephemeral Address
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The Language of the Body

By SARA ELKAMEL

Image of tents in a Bedouin-style camp at the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan

Tents in a Bedouin-style camp at the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan. Courtesy: Soraya Ghezelbash.

Wadi Rum, Jordan
for Yvonne

 

We pull the black of Rum over our eyes
like skin. God’s earth is vast, vast, vast—but by day

she wrapped her limbs around my limbs and drew
my air. I follow her into the dark, consider saying: Please,

I don’t know what you need—but all I see is red.
At the foot of the dunes I push her, soft as the sin

that tips the scale. I run away like a ghost, a demon, a silent drum
in the faultless dark. Not a quiver of light around my bones.

The Language of the Body
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