His last name was Sugar.
At least that’s what I thought,
until he wrote the characters
on a napkin, and showed me,
with his grass-fluid Japanese writing,
his stumbling English words:
“Sound same . . . but . . . meaning different.”
“Sato” was, he said, a surname as common as “Smith.”
I was disappointed,
since “Sugar” made such an apt name
for a crafter of shockingly sweet powder cubes
that melt on a tongue hot with tea,
globulous balls of bean jam
and glutinous sticky-rice cakes
scented with cherry blossom,
black sesame, and mugwort,
the last of which sounds noxious,
but tastes of dulcet sage.
Mr. Sato, the young confectioner,
let me sit in his shop, at 6:20 a.m.,
and served me tea,
just because he’d happened to see me on a morning walk,
looking red-nosed and friendless,
tall and lonely,
in the chill of dawn.
his small, dry hands
with skin fine as the rice paper
in which he wrapped
a dozen pink and green swirls,
out-sparkling the lingering spring snow,
for me to take home.
I said, “No, I couldn’t,”
and he gently insisted.