Another semi-oldie. This (with a shorter "glossary") was in my 2019 collection, Furusato.
The Love of Sushi Sue
I lived near Tokyo’s Hama-Zushi bar
those years I was a seafood sybarite –
would start off there with monkfish caviar
and sweet live shrimp, to set the appetite –
then grab a cab to narrow streets where night
melts into dawn, to hunt for something more.
I’d often wander home about first light
to meet Old Hama, sweeping out the store.
He’d eye the girls I hustled past his door,
but knew my true love was an artful blow
fish broth, or chunks of fatty tuna, raw,
caressed with strands of gleaming herring roe.
Good food was all I worshipped and revered
and women, though amusing, interfered.
In time, the real-life girlfriends disappeared,
replaced by fantasies of Sushi Sue
who, naked as a salmon, commandeered
my reveries - slim sushi ingenue
enshrined behind Old Hama’s bleached bamboo.
She worked like nude quicksilver, with a blade
in each small hand - Hama’s fish swam through
her fingers and in seconds were fileted -
embraced by rice and seaweed, and arrayed
with fat carp’s heads and pouting silver bream,
sea urchin eggs, fresh squid and trout - displayed
as backdrop for my slick, wet ocean dream.
But Sue repelled me when I cupped her breast:
“A sushi girl cannot make love to guest!”
Although all that was years ago, the quest
remains. My thoughts have never wandered far
from Hama’s pickled prawns with lemon zest,
the earthy taste of slow-baked arctic char -
or Sushi Sue’s small room behind the bar -
where I now nibble her hirame, coax
the sweetness from her uni, feel a star
in me explode as she adroitly strokes
my ana-kyu, and whispers private jokes.
At last, with sake sips and salty nips,
I polish off a banquet that evokes
a sigh - and mirugai - from parted lips.
“I’m glad that you like raw fish,” she will coo,
as I finally taste the love of Sushi Sue.
hirame: Halibut. Often served as a sashimi style first course, with a ponzu dipping sauce (lime juice, soy sauce and sake). Good hirame should be so fresh and sliced so thinly that you can see through it, and detect the pattern on a plate; and it is often ordered as a first course to enable a gourmet foodie to quickly evaluate the sushi shop.
uni: Sea urchin gonads.
ana-kyu: A conical, hand-made sushi specialty of rice, cucumber strips and ocean eel, rolled in seaweed and topped with a thick, sweet sauce. This is much more elegant than the tight “California roll” style popular in the States, and superb ana-kyu is regarded as one of the criteria of a fine, traditional sushi establishment. (Warning - it’s impossible to eat without having the impenetrable dark brown sauce drip through the bottom of the cone and down your arm; and ana-kyu devotees are distinguished by stains of honor on their wrists and forearms, not unlike the nicotine-drenched fingers of post-war French intellectuals.)
mirugai: A large clam. Analogous to a New England quahog.