Tag Archives: poem

People Who Eat in Coffee Shops

This one is for Kaitlyn, in honor of all the years we’ve taken off our lives in diners. I don’t regret one minute, and when are we doing it again? I’ll just be over here listening to Small Change the next time you’re in town.

This year, I’ve also recorded all the poems I’m posting. Click the title of the poem to listen.

People Who Eat in Coffee Shops

People who eat in coffee shops
are not worried about nutrition.
They order the toasted cheese sandwiches blithely,
followed by chocolate egg creams and plaster of paris
wedges of lemon meringue pie.
They don’t have parental, dental, or medical figures hovering
full of warning, or whip out dental floss immediately.
They can live in furnished rooms and whenever they want
go out and eat glazed donuts along with innumerable coffees,
dousing their cigarettes in sloppy saucers.

by Edward Field, taken from Good Poems, American Places


Jelly Roll is a bluesey, fluid seduction. I’d never heard of Kevin Young, but when I was browsing for poetry at the library, I liked the cover of this book. I read the whole collection through twice in a week and kept browsing after that. It’s overdue now, which means I’m doing my civic-minded part to keep the doors open at Multnomah County Library. Pause for a moment to experience a warm glow of admiration, and then enjoy this.

This year, I’ve also recorded all the poems I’m posting. Click the title of the poem to listen.


I want, like
water, you —

something wet
gainst the back

of my throat. Carry
me out

reel me in
I been down

this well too long —

by Kevin Young

national poetry month, day 30.

This seems like a properly stunning note on which to end the month. Thanks go to Shana for this one, as well. My gratitude to everyone who suggested a poem or poet, and who followed this project.

Prologue–And Then She Owns You
by Patricia Smith

This is not morning. There is a nastiness
slowing your shoes, something you shouldn’t step in.
It’s shattered beads, stomped flowers, vomit–
such stupid beauty,

beauty you can stick a manicured finger
into and through, beauty that doesn’t rely
on any sentence the sun chants, it’s whiskey
swelter blown scarlet.

Call this something else. Last night it had a name,
a name wedged between an organ’s teeth, a name
pumping a virgin unawares, a curse word.
Wail it, regardless,

Weak light, bleakly triumphant, will unveil scabs,
snippets of filth music, cars on collapsed veins.
The whole of gray doubt slithers on solemn skin.
Call her New Orleans.

Each day she wavers, not knowing how long she
can stomach the introduction of needles,
the brash, boozed warbling of bums with neon crowns,
necklaces raining.

She tries on her voice, which sounds like cigarettes,
pubic sweat, brown spittle lining a sax bell
the broken heel on a drag queen’s scarlet slings.
Your kind of singing.

Weirdly in love, you rhumba her edges, drink
fuming concoctions, like your lukewarm breakfast
directly from her crust. Go on, admit it.
You are addicted

to her brick hips, the thick swerve she elicits,
the way she kisses you, her lies wide open.
She prefers alleys, crevices, basement floors.
Hell, let her woo you.

This kind of romance dims the worth of soldiers,
bends and breaks the back, sips manna from muscle,
tells you Leave your life. Pack your little suitcase,
flee what is rigid

and duly prescribed. Let her touch that raw space
between cock and calm, the place that scripts such jazz.
Let her pen letters addressed to your asking.
You s-s-stutter.

New Orleans’s, p-please. Don’t. Blue is the color
stunning your tongue. As least the city pretends
to remember to be listening.
She grins with glint tooth,

wiping your mind blind of the wife, the children,
the numb ritual of job and garden plot.
Gently, she leads you out into the darkness
and makes you drink rain.

national poetry month, day 29.

I’ve often seen the first stanza of this poem quoted as a sort of life lesson about honesty and confronting your feelings. The full poem, however, is a lot more shivery and complicated than that. From Songs of Innocence and Of Experience. (This one’s in Experience. Plainly.)

A Poison Tree
by William Blake

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.

And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see,
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

national poetry month, day 28.

Shana found this beautiful disturbance for me on The Nervous Breakdown.

by Lauren Wheeler
For a nickel, you can take a picture of me
standing just so in front of a wooden board
with a heart painted on it.
For a dime, you can take a picture with me,
you squatting behind and peeking through
like I’m one of those cardboard cutouts
of an “Indian Chief” or a unicorn or some other
supposedly mythical creature.
When you offer a quarter, we move to the tent,
dim-lit and dusty, where I sit on the low
quilt-covered pot and pat the space beside me.
You are nervous. “Will it hurt you?”
I shake my head. “It never hurts. Not anymore.”
Then I take your hand and guide up towards
the hole in my chest. You tremble for a second
as you reach through me, wiggle your fingers
around behind my back, disbelieving.
“Where is your heart?” you ask.
“How do you live without your heart?”
I take your hand again, kiss it.
“It’s amazing the things you can learn 
to live without.”