Starbucks, have you any coffee for me,
can’t you see I am very sleepy,
won’t you tell me where a barista might be,
is there a cappuccino and a table,
an umbrella, and a seat?
Starbucks, can I sit outside your door,
on the sidewalk with a napkin and pen,
writing my poem that no one will read,
doodling my time away
to an ambiguous ending.
And when the barista comes out,
asking me if I’d like some frothy whipped cream,
wonderful cream like the fall of moonlight,
the garden lanterns are lit,
while a gypsy jazz trio plays
dans les nuages.
Starbucks, I don’t know if you have what I need,
a lonely table under a carob tree,
where I’ll sit and sip a cold coffee,
my heart squeezed through a napkin ring,
wishing for skylark wings to fly away and sing.
(“Skylark” is a 1942 jazz standard song, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Hoagy Carmichael.)
Every day now followed a similar pattern, beginning with a walk for a cup of coffee I would bring back to our motel room for Sylvie, who slept on, from a nearby cafe or coffee shop, where I might sit drinking my first cup at the counter or a small outdoor table, my little pocket notebook for company, giving every man Jack the impression I was productively occupied, not that any Jack would care, but some mornings I had to settle for the coffee brewed in the motel lobby, or, last resort, made from a rickety electric drip coffee maker in the motel room, using the premeasured packets of coffee and water from the bathroom sink, the coffee poured from the carafe into plastic or foam cups, the foil wrapped mints left by the housekeeper intended it was my guess to smooth the bitter oily watery edge of a coffee made with dirty equipment, water heated only lukewarm, with beans ground to dust. But when I got back to the room with Sylvie’s coffee from abroad, she might still be sleeping, or the television would be on, and she would catch me up on the local news, weather, and road conditions. Check out time was usually 11, though most motel guests were out and back on the road by then, as we often were, too, the noise of a neighbor’s flushing toilet, pipe gurgling shower, slamming doors, the awakening road rush of 18 wheelers, motorcycles, family vans loading up, delivery trucks coming and going, or a squealing housekeeping cart preventing further sleep in any case.
“Morning Motel Coffee” is episode 71 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
Xavier Roman Catholic Church was within walking distance from Hotel Julian. Hearing they hosted bingo every Monday night, I walked over to play a few cards. About 20 players sat at tables in the church hall, Father Juan calling the numbers from a podium on a stage. I bought half a dozen cards at 50 cents each at a table set up at the entrance, took a paper cup of coffee, and found a seat at a table where sat a couple of ancient nuns wearing simple blue scarves, rosary necklaces, short black smocks, and Jack Purcell canvas shoes, white with the navy blue stripe on the toes. The night was hot out but the hall was cooled by three electric fans dropping from the ceiling. At one table was a family of seven: father, mother, grandmother, and four children aged about 6 to 12, three girls and a boy. They were all attentively playing multiple cards but occasionally one of the kids pointed to another’s card where a call otherwise might have been missed. A new game began, and I paid attention to my own card, intending to play but one card per game, in no hurry. I would drop my winnings, if any, into the donation box on my way out. The room was quiet, Father Juan calling the numbers in a sonorous, serious voice. The night passed on peacefully. If one of the kids shouted Bingo! a polite applause ensued, and the nuns smiled their approval. I sipped my coffee, unused to late evening caffeine, and after a couple of cups began to feel more alert to the musty smell of the hall, the noises – shuffling of cards, shoes, chairs scraping as someone got up for a trip to the refreshment table or restroom – and in the quiet between calls I could hear the soft whir of the big fans slowly turning above.
“Bingo at Xavier” is episode 34 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)
Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.
Russell Bennetts, editor extraordinaire (Berfrois, Queen Mob’s Tea House), interviews the Prince of the Toads for his popular series “Poets Online Talking About Coffee.” Head on over for a cup and check it out.
Below: “The Dance Lesson,” 32 x 64, oil paint and oil pastel over acrylic: