Sixteen Days

A woman in Hong Kong

Buys a lemon

Her hair is straight

And unperfumed

Held around her face

By a cheap plastic beret


In Hong Kong

A source of pride

She also buys

A mango

Some rice

And a small bottle

Of rice wine

But it is

This lemon

That’s important

For the first day she will simply

Enjoy the smell of this lemon

And then

She will cut it

Into paper thin slices

For her tea

And collect the juice

For her hair and body


The smell of this lemon

Will last

For days

And her husband

Likes the smell of lemon

In Amsterdam

Her daughter

Will sit

In a smoky bar

Her Mandarin cheekbones

Framed by fake blonde hair

And men from around the world

Will come and watch her

And when she goes home

Early in the morning

The only thing that will

Cut through the smell

Of smoke and whiskey

Will be

The juice of a lemon

She bought in town

Because it reminded her

Of her mother

To whom she has not spoken

In three years

Four months

And sixteen days

One man

Will see the young woman

And through mystical connections

Forgotten in the modern world

Be made to understand

The connections

And he will walk out

Into the clean air

For he cannot bear to

Watch these women

And the drunken fools braying at them

He will write it all down

And these images

Will haunt him for many days

And he will try to explain it

To those whom he loves

And some will understand

And others will not

But all of them

Will marvel

At this

And no one will ever

See a lemon

The same way again

Bill Fletcher / 2007 / Amsterdam

Losing A Thing

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Generally speaking, I am not attached to things.

I dropped the watch on a tile floor. I landed face down and made a terrible, flat cracking sound. I knew it was broken before I picked it up.

I took it to a watch repair shop where it had been repaired once before. After a long moment, the proprietor explained he could fix it but that it would probably not keep time properly. He shook it gently and I could hear bits of glass rattling inside. Little bits of glass had gotten down into the works of the watch.

Generally speaking, I am not attached to things. I started to just throw it away but, instead, I wrapped it carefully in a plastic bag and took it with me.

Generally speaking, I am not attached to things.

This particular thing I bought from the duty free cart on an airplane as I was flying to Australia and then on to China. I liked the inner ring that allowed me to quickly calculate what time is was in various time zones. It became the watch I wore on shoots because he had a silent, mechanical stop watch. It’s the watch I wore on vacations. The watch I wore on weekends.

It’s not the watch I will miss. It’s a thing and, generally speaking, I am not attached to things.

What I will miss are the memories connected to the watch. The trips, the shoots, the people. The smooth, silent click of the stopwatch. The rings that named all the time zones. That’s why I just placed it gently in a drawer along with some other things.

Generally speaking, I am not attached to things. But some things take on the freight of memories to be cherished. That’s why I will miss this watch and that’s why I cannot throw it away.

First World Problems

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As a frequent traveler, I have TSA PreCheck so I can breeze through security without taking off my shoes, leaving my computer in my bag and wearing my jacket.

Until today, I did not know they “randomly select” TSA PreCheck customers to go through regular security. As a result of my ignorance, this morning I found myself standing in a line with a bunch of well-meaning people carrying their possessions in trash bags, wearing their sports ball shirts and wrangling their kids while demonstrating a general lack of awareness of the basic procedures for going through security or breathing through their noses.

Meanwhile, I stare with the dead eyes of a predator at the TSA PreCheck line which is completely empty.

I went through through the five-stages of grief, consulted the iChing, hyper-ventilated and contemplated (only briefly) the consequences of trying to leap a four-foot Plexiglass security barrier.

I have been poisoned by entitlement.

A guy in front of me seemed to think he was being arrested because they told him to raise his hands in the scanner. I remove my shoes, as compliant as a sheep or a lemming. I raise my hands. I am disrobed. Beltless. Jacketless. My belongings in plastic bins festooned with advertisements.

Mysterious rays probe my very being.

My cuff links, a gift from my son and his wife, are examined with suspicion. Cleared, I gather my belongings and reassemble myself on a low bench. I am a free man once again.