Coffee & Skeletons

When I was in college, one of my favorite classes was poetry.  I loved the way a poet could take the raw material of words and wrestle them into something with heft and beauty.  I remember one of our assignments was to write a poem on love.  At 20 years old, having been on the recent end of a break-up with my high school girlfriend, I found this assignment to be both humorous and infuriating.  What did I know about love?  Up to that point in time, my experience taught me that love was fickle;  It would keep you around as long as it found you useful, but eventually discard you in the trash.  Love would make solemn vows before God and man, but broke them later, a process I observed in my home and the homes of many of my friends growing up.  What did  know about love?

Tucked away on the corner of Eighth Street in Lawrence, Kansas is Henry’s Coffee Shop.  Cozy coffee shop downstairs; dark, sultry bar upstairs, it was the perfect place to relax, get lost in hours-long conversations, or people watch.  It was at Henry’s that I gained my inspiration for my poem on love, which I included below.  Doing so is equally parts exhilarating and terrifying, but I hope you enjoy it.

A Night At Henry’s

I fall silent, my fingers
traveling nonchalantly over the rim
of my begrimed coffee cup.
I search the corners of my psyche
attempting to derive an explanation of
my affection for you.
But instead, I’m contented to observe
the desire reflected off the luminescence in your eyes.
A burning vestige of proclivity
and unbridled passion waiting to be kindled
by Cupid’s drunken missiles.
Wanting nothing but to hold you close
to feel our hearts beat as one, even if
it’s just for a night.
Throbbing with anticipation
I precede to the counter
and put up the tab.

I’m a firm believer that poets shouldn’t give too much back story about their poems.  Words can guide, but interpretation, and to a greater extent, meaning, should be individualized to the reader.  That said, this poem is not auto-biographical (although it should be noted that coffee shops are never a bad place to meet a woman…)  So why publish a 14 year old poem now?  Well, while I’ve always held an affinity for poetry, it is work.  Staring at a blank blog post and wondering what to write can be daunting.  Writing poetry…the act of ruthless revision and relentless pruning, is laborious.  However, in keeping with my theme of being intentional this year, I decided that I’m going to make time for poetry.  I’m going to read it, try writing it again, and be brave enough to share it with others.  The last time I did that was in the “safe” confines of my college poetry class, surrounded by other aspiring poets.  Now married with three children and 14 years of life experience in the rear view mirror, I’d say things have changed since I was that immature 20 year old who was clueless when it came to writing a poem about love.

Writer Audre Lorde once wrote that, “Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”  Here’s to always dreaming, building bridges out of bones, and drowning our fears in good coffee.


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