Reflections from Long Gone Days Serving Coffee in the Local Diner

Four cups of coffee down and you
watch her light one more cancer stick. The smoke crowns her and I wonder
when the art of breath died. I wonder how
this fog, this smog, this burning can go on for oh so very very very long.
I wonder why each lit match fails to ignite her oxygen, and I ask: will she
ever be free? I pour you another cup. We watch her drizzle in counterfeit cream she took
from the table across the way and I skirt the edge of corporate policy to
slip her just a few more blue cylinders. Just enough humanity to make
her grin. Yet not enough that it
coaxes her voice out
from where it quivers, hiding her bouquet of stale fear from
the posse for historical truth. I swallow bile, turn away from the
vigilante justice dealt her with each rattle of exhaled smoke.
If you ask, she will say “some things are better left unsaid” but just maybe
you have the courage to ask one more time. I pour you more coffee. You sip and she
raises her chipped mug in solemn tribute and crushes out her cigarette. I never
say die. You did.

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This was developed as a “golden shovel” poem, a form I play with occasionally. It’s a bit of a structural discipline: the writer takes a line (or two) from an admired poem and uses each word in those lines as an end word in a new poem, in order. For this poem, I started with the following two lines:

you wonder how long she took to make it out from the smoke

maybe she never did

by Over the Rainbow by Melody Chen. You can read the entire poem on her blog here. The picture is via Creative Commons Nighthawk by Edward Hopper used under CC BY-NC 3.0. It was adapted in Microsoft PPT: Rotated, cropped, and “chalk sketch” effect added.

fly – don’t fly

Don’t fear the spindle’s prick.
One ruby from your fingertip gives release.
Dream, sweet prince.

Last I looked you perched on the swing gate of a worn fence.
Fly, don’t fly, fly, don’t. You chose to climb.
Toes gripping chain link, one grunt and you were in . . .

          . . . dust motes and danger: a siren song of threadbare tomes.

I filled your pockets with the white pebbles of freedom.
Our plan had arrows, circles, lines – a complete diagram and time of expected arrival.
Did you know that the forest floor is soft and sticky with pine sap?
You only needed to mark the trail home.
I would have met you there.

Firelight hides shrinking mounds of flax and hemp.