PD Mallamo


Graham Greene’s
Journey Without Maps
Got a lot of mileage that day.
I bought it used at The Dusty Bookshelf
In Lawrence and
Read it on the plane from Kansas City to
Salt Lake


The Jihadis reclined — earphones, white pillows —
One on either side of the aisle
Eyes closed on Frontier Flight 828
Dreaming of suicide & virgins
I supposed

I had gotten on with Graham and
Damn near walked off again
Having no desire
To be part of a dive-bombing
Over Denver


I saw a wicked karma up there
And I’ll tell you this:
The Lord is not pleased with margueritas
At 39,000 feet


But somewhere between Topeka
And the Rocky Mountains I let it go.

“The other map,” wrote Greene, “is issued by
the United States War Department. There is a
dashing quality about it; it shows a vigorous imagination.
Where the English map is content to leave a blank space,
the American in large letters fills it in with the word


A man who reads Graham Greene
She said (hands on hips).
Where did YOU come from?

Kansas, I said. About two hours ago.
I’m married.

Here you can have more than one,
She said and laughed. She touched the book
Then turned and bounced into the Utah night
Looking back once and smiling
Sweet thing


Let’s face it:
Civilization screws with your head.
The phone/the tube/the car/the plane/Islamabad
Even a book from Lawrence some girl in
Salt Lake City finds irresistible
For no reason I could tell unless it was the
Warm evening in a coffee shop on 4th South or
The crowd, the jazz, the streetcars, the stars
You could barely see.

It’s too much.
It is.


Shinjuku Station,
Am I dreaming?

But in my graceless voyage there
Is grace somehow
And what I don’t believe
Is true

Bamboo runs along this track,
A green explosion.

And it is clear that
Nature knew the way
From countryside to city.

It’s all connected to Shinjuku Station where
Trains howl
And a million eyes are closed

A man wears a T-shirt that says
“Shit 30” except the 3 is backward.
What does that mean
In Japan? Who can read it?
The man smiles
Pleased with something
Only he can hear

And those who rise from nothing
Like Capote and Disraeli
Mean the world to me, even in Shinjuku
Which is far from everything
I know

Am I someone
Who makes that world go round?
Will I still love god
When I am unafraid?
These questions point nowhere
Yet are my guiding stars

My son stands near me
On the platform of Shinjuku
Yet is far away far away far away
In a place I’ve seen and tried to tell
Where love is lost and wounds
Heal slowly. He did not hear.
What else can I offer?

The word like water
Cool and blue, flowing
Into that ocean of pain
Long after the electric in my
Head has died and the
Bamboo and my son and the trains.

PD Mallamo writes in rural eastern Kansas near Lawrence (where William Burroughs died). He thought he was a farmer. He's not. He's just a writer. He does grow tomatoes, however, and peppers. The horses in the back pasture are not his.

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