As a child, arms straining for leverage
Amid the jerk and imbalance
Of metal arm and timber box, round
And around, with trenched brow,
I struggled for consistency,
For the keen grain that would release
Character hidden. Periodically
I inspected the tiny, wooden drawer which
Never filled commensurately with effort,
The process long and arduous but rewarded
When he pinched the salt-sized powder
And winked me towards the percolator.
Saturday mornings at the merchant were
About exotic places held in glass boxes
On the wall: Kenya, Colombia, Brazil,
New Guinea, Sumatra, Ethiopia
And the slow, effortless toil and aroma
Around the ancient roaster: beans,
Like ground ploughed, rolled and folded,
Their sound like air through clenched teeth,
Their oily skins glistening in the heat.
He is long gone, but I had made it for him:
The blend that effused memory yet imbued
Quality, had found the tools that produced
The perfect grind, tamped
To a perfect press, extracted a flawless shot.
And I wondered as he drew in its careful
Disposition; did he stand again
Exploring distant lands, the boy beside him,
Steeping in the moment of decision –
Single origin, old blend, something new –
Both glad for this one thing that united them?
I stand there still.
At this hour, there is peace; even the sputter
And hiss from steam-wand in milk
Is a glissando on the morning’s theme.
It is a time to float and all who come
Find a table at which to anchor and ride
The gentle wash of the passing day.
Then comes one who motors to a stop:
A party-barge of a woman with hair
Like a judge’s wig dipped in tar,
Her face, a dragon boat of colour,
Her mouth, a foghorn of four-letter words
Refracted by her vacant cackling companion
(A sad, bobbing tender).
The swell, irregular now, slaps our hulls and
One-by-one, anchors are weighed
In pursuit of safe harbour.