Ramen in Japantown, James Croal Jackson

Amy Casey, Begin Again, 2009, Acrylic on Paper, 22″ X 30″

Ramen in Japantown


I had been eating like shit living
in my car, fingernails full of fungus.
We agreed to meet in Japantown
to enjoy a fancy ramen
but this would be my first
in many years
that wasn’t Maruchan
(cheap crinkly plastic,
cancer-flavored beef-dust
in a silver sawtooth-edged bag
& you must be aware the body
struggles to digest it).
During our meal,
two years since
we last talked,
the cheap ramen must have
intermingled in my stomach
with the pork-broth
real deal. I put an egg
on top for authenticity
when you told me you had
just bought Coachella tickets
for yourself & your brother
& I didn’t want to know the
price because I was living
on wages made on the days
I was lucky enough to
find work. Umami
lingered on my tongue
as we ruminated
in silence over
how vast the distance
our lives had traveled

James Croal Jackson


Review by Dan Overgaard

Umami is the flavor and perfect description of this bitter-sweet reunion. It’s sweet and rich to see an old friend and enjoy some fancy ramen, but that pleasure hard to digest or fully enjoy, given the contrast and vast gap between their current circumstances. The salty sweat from work, when you can get it, may be a different sweat than one might work up, dancing at Coachella. There is much to savor in this relationship, but a lingering sourness leaves the reader to wonder, sadly, whether and how soon they will get together again. 

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