i remember learning to use a coffee maker for the first time
in oakland, when the sunrise was molten on the edges of the hills
and turned the kitchen floor into sun-puddles
and bacon was a special breakfast
my grandmother let me stand on tip-toe and pour the water in
it was cold through the glass of the carafe
and she smelled of unscented hand lotion as she reached around me
to program the brew.
i would marvel at the bacon snapping in its own juices
and at the burbling of the coffee maker
while we talked.

i remember learning that if my dad was grinding beans
for a second cup of coffee before he left for work
i could stand in the kitchen and tell him just about anything
and he would listen
until the timer went off and he pressed down the filter.
he would kiss my head when he walked out the door.
if he offered me a sip, i would taste the smell of it all day long.
it was his smell, sharp and warm,

i can’t decide if i drink coffee just to keep
tenderness and pictures like these close at hand
weapons against defeat and adulthood
or if i keep drinking it down, waiting to find
at the bottom of this cup
a friend
someone who smells like coffee too
who will talk in silence
and watch the light with me.

we pulled up to paradise, trying not to peek at the rubble next door.
apprehension seduced me, and we pretended not to watch
the scavengers sorting through the shambles of a life, strewn on the sidewalk
like crumbs fallen in the corner behind an overfull trash can.

i held my breath but nothing happened.
you told me there was no sock yarn in the mess outside.
it was claimed. sock yarn absorbed into the blank windows and closed faces of neighbors,
and no one would cover the nakedness of another.

a woman squatted against the fence posts, hips wide, hands on her knees.
her turban wilted and her eyes narrow, looking deeply into nothing.
the ground turned its face away and covered itself with things
broken and scattered beneath her feet.
the sky was flat, shutting closed like all the doors on our street.

we shuffle past and pretend we don’t notice
your broken piles. it isn’t something we will touch
my hands might get dirty.

the woman leans into a standing position, straddling the wreckage of a world
and walks away.



Shoutout to Sam Perry and his new project, “Paper News: I Am the Printing Press.”  This poem will be published in the monthly magazine.