Take one part Grand Marnier, one Frangelico, a short cup of coffee, whipped cream only if you wish, curl on the sofa with your life’s greatest love and your first real, truly your first Christmas Eve makes you wonder why you waited so long.
First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)
The Buddha said that any task you do if done mindfully is a sort of meditation. We assume he said it, we’ve been told he did, but no one I know was anywhere near that bodhi tree, so we take it on faith. When it comes to things like chopping large quantities of onions, or roasting coffee beans I totally get it, it does seem like meditation, and deep at that. Walking the dog makes the list, and perhaps convincing the cat to do anything she didn’t think of by out waiting her. I can even accept washing the car or the dishes, but washing the dog is only so on rare occasions and only if I medicate her first, and the cat, forget it. But even Buddha would have to concede that no matter how totally mindful you are, driving anywhere in either Broward or Miami-Dade counties is as far from meditative as opting to commit sepuku with a butter knife.
We were walking around Vienna, Wien, the river cruise boat arriving early, dropped off into the city center, told we had precisely two hours to wander, or we’d make our own way back, and risk missing lunch and the formal tour.
We wandered, following instructions, looking in vain for a café where we could get an Austrian cappuccino, and perhaps a pastry for which the city was famous, even though we swore off deserts, but before noon it could be still breakfast and well within our supposed rules.
After several wrong turns we ended up the Schauflergasse, still searching when we heard the rhythmic clopping of hooves and stepped quickly from the path of the regal white stallions, as they proudly pranced by back to their stables.
We asked the rider in the last rank where we might find a café and pastry, and he shouted back at us, “After seeing us, Vienna has nothing more to offer.
We did find a café shortly after and sharing an order of powidltascherl and sipping our melange, we begged to differ with the Lipizzaner rider.
At the coffee shop they chatter as if in some foreign tongue, conversations overlaid one on another on another, until all I can strain are snippets of words, stray syllables. This is true everywhere I have visited, and it promises good coffee, for I have found that when I can easily eavesdrop on others at nearby tables, it is because the espresso maker has gone silent too long, there are few present, and I will regret the coffee shortly after drinking it.
For three days I was
a short order cook
a change from my table duties
when the regular guy decided
that a night of drinking didn’t end
when the bar closed
and broke back in
through the rotting back door
that was always next
on the list of things to be fixed.
The owner, my boss, said he’d wait
three days for the cook
to dry out in his cell,
but my cooking made him reconsider.
Yet the customer still came, paid
Were patient, and after
the three days past,
and the old cook couldn’t make
even his nominal bail
the boss hired a new cook
and I went back to dishes
and filling coffee, and looking lovingly
at my dishwasher, my friend
for a too long too long summer
until I went back to college.
They stand impatiently in line chattering, giggling, tittering like so many schoolgirls with secrets they promised to keep to their deaths and have to immediately tell a friend. “Did you hear about Letitia?” one says, and goes on to say she shared her journal with several other girls in the eighth grade. It goes on like this incessantly as the barista, working alone as always, gathers their order, places it in trays so they can carry it back to school. We wait patiently, trying to decide What grade Shirley might be in, whether shall be suspended again for mouthing off to the hall monitor, and how impatient the other teachers in the lounge must be getting waiting for their counterparts to bring back the morning coffee.