Arf by Ralph Monday
The frat brothers called him Arf. No one knew why.
Japanese-American, he was into the Buddha, the Pacific
ocean, martial arts, drinking, smoking dope & getting
This was in the 70s still rocking from the 60s.
Once, he kicked a door down in the dorm to go after a
guy who had been flirting with his girl.
She later left him for the guy.
Another time he jumped 70+ feet through high tension
cable wires buzzing like berserk bats to the deep lake
below. Drunk, of course, but the precision of the plunge
was like a Basho sky ballet, almost in slow motion, a
type of Michelangelo mirage waiting to paint that
watery canvas the way that only a guy with the Pacific
in his genes could do.
The girl came back to him.
He had to kick another door down for another flirting guy.
She encouraged the flirts.
She left him for another guy.
Arf loved the samurai code & Bruce Lee movies,
especially when Bruce kicked in a door.
He was an artist, too, kinda in the style of Monet
with Jackson Pollock on the side.
Never made it as an artist. Moved to Asheville to take care of
his elderly Japanese mother, became a Japanese steakhouse
chef building smoking onion volcanoes & slicing zucchini
like a John Belushi play samurai.
He married the girl.
She divorced him after two kids.
He didn’t kick a door down.
He stopped showing up at the yearly August Outing
when the frat brothers got back together. 40 years
of that, reminiscent of the Big Chill.
Doober told us why. The CAT scan lit up his brain.
The surgeons cracked his head open like a walnut, dug
in and took out pieces of rotten walnut meat.
He wouldn’t let anyone come see him, & I know
why: because he couldn’t take that plunge, because he
couldn’t kick a door in.
The ex-wife and the two kids put him to the fire the way an
American samurai should go.
In honor of his wishes, they drove to the west coast, scattered
his ashes in the Pacific, those cold waves rolling across from
Hokkaido, Arf began his long swim home.
Ralph Monday is Professor of English at RSCC in Harriman, TN. Hundreds of poems published. Books: All American Girl and Other Poems, 2014. Empty Houses and American Renditions, 2015. Narcissus the Sorcerer, 2015. Bergman’s Island & Other Poems, 2021, and a humanities text, 2018. Twitter @RalphMonday