Dusky aroma of roast, smoky warmth
like tobacco; dented pot percolating
on the stove, or compact machine
hissing softly on the counter.
I used to drink four to five cups
every day, the last one near midnight,
poring over student work and grading.
But lately, I’ve tried to cut back
on my consumption— none on my way
out to work, mornings darker now
every day as the year approaches
winter. Perhaps one cup at noon,
to break the rhythm of thought
and writing, writing and thinking
and reading; sometimes with the radio on,
so then there’s news of what latest calamity
worse than weather is fallen on our heads,
wrought by the terrible agencies at work
in the world. Sometimes the phone rings,
abrupt interruption: demanding I listen
to any number of things I couldn’t have
anticipated. These by themselves are enough
to trigger palpitations, the jittery hand
dropping pens and keys for the umpteenth
time, spilling water on the table.
On weekends I nurse the one mug poured
at breakfast throughout the day, taking it
with me as I clean and put furniture
in order, setting it down as I take
clothes out of the dryer; or by the sink
as I mince garlic and chop onions. It’ll have
gone cold by then— But I drink as if measuring
time with each small bitter mouthful: reminder
of the unutterable that shadows each act
we think is the moment’s most urgent occupation;
of the solitude which the tongue understands,
marked by its flavor most deeply, above all others.

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