#65

Gordon Mason
Tramcars

Wooden tramcars creak
through cobble beds
like chapters of an endless novel.

Second-hand bookstores
lagged by books that remember
their old owners

as borrowed eyes.
To find the prize is to seek
but not in the same day:

it may be years behind schedule.
Cafes hold ladies
with hours of voice time

like caged canaries.
Clusters in bars,
conversations of movies,

literature, politics.
They never seem to arrive,
never seem to leave,

they look at the world
from windows of a bar.
Many read in the tramcars

but can no longer
decipher a line.
Heads against windows,

sleep upon eyelids.
There is always someone kind
to waken them at their stop.

 

Francis Raven
The Evolution of My Views on Starbucks

1.

           Coffee Love

awakening, coffee never separated from smoke,
the voluptuous mermaid of college poetry
just like very other northwest coffee shop:
wonderful. firsts: first Gary Snyder, first
Hölderlin, first Heidegger, first Ashbery,
first noticing what coffee was supposed to mean,
and this lonely caffeinated rain taught me to write:
      what never spills becomes me.

2.

           Hatred of the Corporate Bean

destroyed every independent coffee shop
and if this neighborhood gets any worse
up will sprout the hearty root of Starbucks,
      “Some people like their 10 dollar latte, not me!”
purveyor of a suburban cookie cutter mentality
blissed out on gentrified globalization,
never paying people what they’re worth,
alighting with plush armchairs, undercharging to demolish:
equate everything and everything will be the same,
      every cup, every person;
and never serves organic
(though dressed in the drag
of its authenticity)
but is filthy in fancy pants’ profits
vilely sucked out of the thrift store communities
from which their dollars are brewed
like their precious liquor is sucked
hard and harsh from expensive, yet tragically burnt, beans.
this, this Starbucks, dirty consumerist addiction,
stains any poem
      with its corporate seal.
Listen, Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks.

3.

           The Hedging of Adulthood

but aren’t you just talking about regular business practices
that every other self-respecting company would use?
that’s really the problem with most independent coffee shops,
they’re not run as businesses; and where does this independence
get you? they can’t offer health care to part timers,
can they? they can’t offer benefits to gay partners;
and Starbucks coffee is really good, have you tried it,
with an open critical mind? it’s the best fucking coffee in the world:
100% arabica and none of that crappy robusta
and if you don’t think it’s not better
to have better coffee being grown
you’re out of your gourd;
first of all, growing arabica is more environmentally sound,
and second, it’s just better to have better things;
and yeah, they’re a really big company,
but you really have to fight your battles where you can win them,
I, personally, am not against really big companies,
if they’re doing good things and Starbucks is doing good things;
what we do have to worry about, and I’ll admit this,
is what happens when they can’t afford to do good;
we’ll really have to be on their case then, and in the same way,
it’s true that they don’t usually brew the fair trade organic blends,
and they should, but they’re more expensive,
and we could write them letters
telling them to brew the organic stuff
and I think they’d listen, I really think they’d listen.

 

 

Televised Regime Change

A peacock’s portrait adorns, clings to, the podium
from which the 7 preliminary charges
are read to the haggardly deposed dictator.

Its stylized tail feathers spread out, one by
tokened one, a commercial for Roundup Ready Seeds
breaks up the progression of impositions and embarrassments.

As the red light flickers and fades
behind Rousseau’s banana leaves
(a major network’s icon belongs in that jungle)

each cameraman slouches into before-breakfast clothes.
A spokesman from the ousted regimes repeats to himself,
as if practicing for Russert:

           “I do my best to die tired and exhausted.”

Behind the glass blinds
(For More Information on How to Improve Your Windows
Call 1-800-64-PECLA) a specific audience is confused, reckless.

An interpreter attempts translation
in the name of diplomacy:

           “He means…”
                pointing to the dictator
           “He symbolizes…”
               pointing to the dictator
          “There will be no commercial break.
          We will sacrifice.
          That damn peacock will pay attention
         &nbspor else…”

 

 

Mia Wolff
The painter’s favorite clichés

Running through the dark
I carry a bottle of light;
with heart in mouth,
like a thief in the night.

Inside the glass
the magic moves:
slippery, invisible:
easy to lose.

I reach in & catch it:
a one-armed circus trick.
There my heart breaks:
cut to the quick.

Falling down between teeth
it pools in the ocean’s lake,
beyond reach,
leaving behind its perfect taste:

I am kissing the ghost
drinking the stuff—
I am walking on water:
gravity’s transparent lust.

 

 

Mark Howard Jones
Ita Mori

After suffering 30 seconds of glares from the coffin-faced woman opposite, Dav dipped his head and stared into his coffee. His stupid brother was 10 minutes late already and he wasn’t going out into that rain to look for him.

He caught the woman’s eye again and wished there was a wild beast hiding in the sugar cubes. One that would suddenly announce its roaring presence by leaping into the woman’s lap, devouring her in an orgy of crunching and squelching before licking its lips, winking at Dav then disappearing back into the sweet jungle hiding at the bottom of the bowl.

But then again, the stink of the woman’s cheap perfume would probably kill off any predator within seconds. Dav groaned inwardly as the bleached buffoon began thumbing her mobile phone. What cretinous shit was he going to have to endure now? Fortunately no-one answered her call and she put the phone back into her bag.

The two-person table seemed far too small. There were still people sticking their heads round the door, seeing there was nowhere to sit and leaving again. He hated Saturdays; now he hated his brother, too.

Dav stared down into the opaque brown depths of his Naffaccino and prayed for Joe to turn up with the tickets. But his coffee seemed to have taken on a life of its own. It swirled in a clockwise direction and started to plume upward. Dav pulled his head away from the cup.

Something was surfacing in his coffee. A midget submarine, he wondered? Then a sharp white object bobbed to the surface. It was a bone.

Dav was about to get to his feet, an uneasy feeling in his stomach, but instead he sat where he was. Something about the delicacy of the object entranced him. He dipped his fingers into his coffee and pulled the white thing out, splashing dark drops around his cup.

The woman opposite hadn’t seemed to notice anything, absorbed as she was with the no-doubt fascinating contents of her handbag. Dav wiped the object dry with his paper napkin, complete with ‘stylish’ logo.

It was a tiny skull. A bird’s skull. Dav stared down into the miniscule orbits where the eyes once sat. It was the smallest skull he had ever seen. What was it – a wren? He knew they were small.

He didn’t care how it had got in his coffee; he was glad it had. Maybe it had come from a secret avian ossuary owned by the heavily-set cafe proprietor.

He turned it over in his hand, being careful not to damage it, and squinted at it. Somebody had written something, scratched in tiny letters, on the underside of the skull, turning it into a tiny bone book. Dav could just make out the letters, his eyes focusing and re-focusing until he was sure what it said: ‘To Perish Thus’.

Dav looked up at the nosey woman opposite. She wasn’t being nosey now, her head down, eyes poring over a magazine. For a moment he felt like saying something to her, but then he noticed the title of the magazine she was reading and changed his mind, tutting to himself.

He put the delicate thing between his teeth, feeling the texture of the bone against the enamel, daring himself to bite down. He could imagine the bone splintering easily under his strong jaws, cutting into his lips and tongue in a final act of post-mortem revenge.

He called himself a coward for not doing it and an even bigger coward because he wouldn’t have dared to do the same thing if the bird was still alive. Would the bird have had more courage than him if their positions were reversed, he wondered?

The ceiling dissolved into a wisp of nothingness and Dav could see himself beneath a hot blue sky, gasping his last on a bare stone slab as the vultures circled overhead. The feathered opportunists were waiting hungrily for him to cough his last before descending to pick him clean.

He hoped he was tasty. Burial in air; burial by beaks.

His feathery fantasy disappeared and he was greeted by the sight of the blonde object opposite him staring at his hand. A look of distaste crossed her face and she flicked her magazine back into position, ready to read more about celebrity lobotomies and million-pound murders (or was it the other way round?).

He closed his hand carefully around the skull, hiding it from other eyes.

The couple at a nearby table stopped their twittering for a few seconds and stuck delicate long tongues into their sweet coffee, their glittering eyes all the while watching, watching, watching for dangerous movement.

Dav closed his hand tighter, slowly and deliberately. He felt the bone, stronger than he’d imagined, resist the pressure of his strong fingers. Then he felt it crack and he exerted more pressure. Grinding the pieces together, he could feel them sticking into his hand but he didn’t stop. Finally, the skull had been ground into powder.

He opened his hand and looked at the white chalky stuff in his palm. He put his other hand over it and pressed hard, moving it in circles, crumbling the bone one final time. Fee-fi-fo-fum.

Suddenly he tipped his hand up and watched as the dusted dead bird poured into his coffee. Some of it sank but the rest stayed on the surface in a white powdery slick. Dav grabbed a packet of sugar, tore it open, poured it in and stirred it quickly with the spoon.

The woman opposite looked up with a frown as the spoon clattered noisily against the edge of the cup. Dav grinned idiotically at her and then, without a pause to think, sloshed the contents of the cup into his mouth and down his throat in two huge gulps.

Drinking down death. Maybe that was the way to immunise yourself against it, thought Dav. But no, probably not.

Would he dream of flying now? Didn’t he always? Dav didn’t know if this would change his life or not but guessed that a little extra calcium in his diet couldn’t hurt. Yet already he was sure a ghostly chorus of complaining caws and chirps would fill his sleeping hours; reproach for his act of rash sacrilegious ingestion. After all, he had no way of knowing if the bird had been a saint while alive or if its skull was a treasured religious relic to birds everywhere.

His meditation on the holiness of relics, human or avian, was interrupted when his brother stuck his beak around the door, dripping with rain, and he knew it was time to go.

Sheltering under his pulled-up jacket, Dav looked suspiciously at the pigeon perched above the entrance of the multi-storey car park. He couldn’t be sure if its eye had a conspiratorial glint in it or not.

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