Tim Tomlinson

Spotlight: The Koreans / Terminal 3 Farewell / In the Eel Grass

The Koreans

In the downpour
a pair of cobras slithers

into the resort
and the restaurant empties

of foreigners.
The boy sets his tray of drinks

on a table and runs for the itak
he isn’t supposed to keep

in his locker, but does.  Not
precisely for this,

but he knew one day it would come in handy.
When he returns

the foreigners’ faces press
against the windows. The cobras rear

and flare and face the boy down.
One swing

and he slices their heads off.
An older waiter stands on the severed heads

until the jaws stop contracting.
Housekeeping wipes up the blood

with bath towels.
The boy resumes passing out

drinks like nothing
has happened, but he’ll never

forget this night.
Even the Koreans tip.


Terminal 3 Farewell

From behind a row of empty carts,

she watches her daughter inch up the long line.
At her side, her grandson taps at the apps

on an android screen.  Her glasses are fogged—

she daubs at her eyes with the hem of her
pink housedress.  What kind of a world is this,

she wonders, that separates mothers

from daughters, that turns parents into strangers
to their own children?

This world.

Her grandson taps at the apps on his android.


In the Eel Grass

Slack tide,
++++++no current for twenty minutes.
The eel grass stiff as soldiers at attention.

At the tip of one stalk, a star anemone, cellophane clear,
an ornament in the currentless shallows—
++++++nothing to reach for, nothing
​​​​+++++++++++++++++++++++++++to grasp.

Where do I fit in this stillness?
​​​​++++++++++++++++++++++​​​​Gray cloud on a green bottom…

Before you bear witness, Charles Wright says,
make sure you have something worth witnessing.

I used to witness hammerheads nosing
++++++around this bed.
​​​​+++++++++++++++++I’d hug the bottom, claw into it
as once, twice, three times the cool clouds of the hammers
++++++passed over.

Today in this stillness I watch a shovel shrimp push debris
++++++from its tiny nest
​​++++++again and again
​​​​++++++++++++like a meditation.

It’s low voltage, no thrill—just work.
++++++I don’t stop watching until I’m damn near out of air.

Tim TomlinsonTim Tomlinson is co-founder of New York Writers Workshop and co-author of its popular text, The Portable MFA in Creative Writing.  His chapbook, Yolanda:  An Oral History in Verse (Finishing Line Press) appears in October 2015.  His full-length collection, Requiem for the Tree Fort I Set on Fire (Winter Goose), will appear in 2016. He teaches in NYU’s Global Liberal Studies program.