Java Lines

That was you following me
scraping solutions off my algebra papers.
Forcing me to follow you to a round table
group who tossed their words into cups
then dived into their coffee after them
for courage, and sarcasm.

That was you outside the beauty school door
pulling the rollers and teasing comb out of my kit
forcing me to follow you down sixth street chasing
slick cylinders and foam tubes full of gossip and smelling
like all the curls permanent wave solution could make.
I knew you hid sexy dime mysteries
in your dives serving coffee galore.

That was you dancing on the table at the crossroads
forcing me to follow you in my highheels as you tickled
my roommate under that purple dress where she chased
you, wanting just one kiss beneath the mistletoe–before I
found you and we spilled our coffee drunk with laughter.

That was you shattering all the myths that I held so true
after you followed me to midnight mass;
you giggling at the monstrance and incense
cracking a stain-glassed façade diving into
the cauldrons of religion on gallons of coffee and ire.

That was you holding the girl on a ferris-wheel who had
a sister with twin eyes to mine as we followed in the next car.
In the house of mirrors she and I scared each other
to opposite sides of those reflections. I saw you smirk
your cat smile, crawl from one side to the other holding out
braille hands touching coffee cups where we
waited in a pahdoo theater of miracle-worked love.

That was you with some scheming redhaired girl
under bleachers feeling white forbiddens which you
lied about and wrote in long texts on rolls and rolls of
tissue parchment which landed with your suspension;
I followed by trading the girl who couldn’t read for
a communist roommate as Castro triumphed in the Bay of Pigs.
Red or Dead – it was all the same to us…as the coffee
settled to grounds; we turned around three times.
You sang Lubbock in a Hi-D-Ho big-haired country ballad,
and I turned to cafeteria urns of tea looking for me.

Yes even so, that was you turning up in Dallas, swinging
along Denton Drive ogling the college preppies
falling in love with every long-legged girl they brought in.
And without so much as a coffee pot you were drinking my words
spilling out into saucers of poetry where Whitman’s leaves
floated next to Frost’s rhymes
& Dickinson’s sticky rolled up balls of notepaper.

(c) Gay Reiser Cannon * 2011 * All Rights Reserve

42 thoughts on “Java Lines

  1. I love the coffee tale… so full of vivid images… I like how you captured each scene of the love affair with that cup of coffee (I am not a coffee lover by the way; more of tea and chocolate).

    I am learning by reading your poems Gay.

    • If I managed any suspense, I surely do wish I knew how. That I never could is the reason I’m a failed short story writer! Thanks for your kind words…I might have let you down at the end.

  2. Oh, yeow! This is one magnificent write, Gay. Very skillful, how you wove it together with the coffee scenarios. Somehow, right away in the first stanza, I had a feeling this was not going to have a happily-ever-after ending. It felt to me like I was a part of this…perhaps because I grew up in the same era. I really enjoyed every word of this.

    • Strange how the world changed. Not at all the way they told us it would. Cars definitely did not get better or cooler! They were the best then. I saw a car like my first one in front of a house yesterday. I contained myself from driving up the drive and taking a picture of it.
      Thanks for your kind words!

    • Yep My high school, 6th street, and the Lubbock hi-d-ho. Part of it feels sepia painted–part of it technicolor – the coffee, the lipstick, the detachable collars, the sweater sets. Funny, thanks for the comment.

  3. I love this nostalgic piece complete with pictures of an old High School and Main Street. The repetition ‘That was you’ and the ‘coffee’ work really well as anchors throughout. For some reason this really reminds me of me ex-husbands High School in Delhi, Ontario, and the place he grew up in Tillsonburg, Ontario.

    • Thanks for your reinforcement. Hope it gave you a little insight to the late 50s and early 60s. Amazing to me there’s any parallel to Ontario and somehow gratifying too.

  4. This is truly a Texas poem. It has some personal references as it is part of a series known as the BR Poems. Some of them are general poems and some more personal. Ron and I have known each other now many years. Through him I met my husband. His family -parents and sisters have become like an extension of my own. We have had a relationship that is only definable through the poems I’ve written. It is more than a friendship, not at all a marriage in any sense. We both write and now we’re growing old together but not in the way other couples grow old together…more like two old roommates. He was diagnosed in March with stage 3 lung cancer.

    This describes times from high school through college and early post college years. The high school was Amarillo high school (which has since burned down). We met there in algebra class. 6th street is a sort of “main street” for a section of town known as San Jacinto. It was a section of the old Route 66 (see Cars) and is historic now. It wasn’t the main street of our “downtown” area, that was Polk street.

    The last picture is one of the Lubbock Hi D Ho where Ron worked when his sister Kit was working at Lubbock’s Methodist hospital and I was attending Texas Tech. There was a Hi D Ho in Amarillo as well and while I, in my ’57 powder blue and white Ford sometimes “hung out” there; Ron never did.

    The reference to “pahdoo” is a personal one…that stanza refers to a Thanksgiving vacation we took to visit mutual friends in Wellington, Texas. While we were there, a fair was in town and before leaving we stopped at that little town movie theater and saw Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in “The Miracle Worker”. After that, any time we saw some one acting out, throwing a fit or generally being uncontrolled we said of them that they were acting “pahdoo” (like Patty Duke). Ha. It stuck in our personal vocabulary.

  5. The use of repetition gives this poem more magnetism than the intriguing content alone. The enticing bitterness of emotion blends perfectly with the coffee. You’ve taken the pain of blinded love and crafted beauty from its depths. Love it!

    • Thank you for those words. It was risky repeating the words and not knowing if they would work. See the other comments. There was a lot of pain, love, and a great deal of foolishness woven into these little vignettes.

  6. A sweet and salty bildungsroman from another, otherworldly Texas, somewhere between “The Last Picture Show” and Buddy Holly’s cousin’s Friday night and Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club. As memoir it is rich and unsubtle as straight bourbon, a happy scorpion inside some fatass Texan’s lizard-skin cowboy boot as the Texas uniculture snores it off. – Brendan

    • I love this comment – I wish I could frame it. I LOVE McMurtry and we are one degree removed from each other. I’ve spent time at “Booked Up” his book store(s) in Archer City. His nephew waited on us. It’s really a collection of stores all around a square that is a library of the world. It was fall but hotter than hades and not all were airconditioned. He even had a copy of the Book of Kells under glass. OMG. But on that particular day he wasn’t there. I haven’t read all his books but I have read the entire set of the characters in The Last Picture Show. So if my work can ever sit next to his…I’m over the moon! You’re a prize Brendan, truly!

    • Well they’re not all “fond” – I think that’s why there are traces of bitterness in the coffee. It’s as Brendan said – a condensed saga! Yes the diagnosis is grave, but we’re keeping hope alive and trudging along as Texans do. Thanks, Sheila.

  7. Gay! You made me think back to my own HS days…and that part of the foam rollers, the smell of permanent (which aren’t!) solutions…..etc..interwoven with coffee, coffee, coffee!

    What a wonderful tribute to a long ago time that evokes memories in readers who are just at that particular age (Me!) and can relate so much to a past that is gone, gone, gone.

    Only memories remain, usually, but the trick here, and the beauty of this poem is the connection you are able to make in your readers.

    This is so rich, imagery, and what I think is most important in poetry: is connection.


    Lady Nyo

  8. Gay, i love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love…….this so much. such a vivid and alive write with breath-taking imagery and hauntingly warm-hearted details..and we spilled our coffee drunk with laughter… or dead….dang…..this is awesome – honestly….i fell in love with this…

    • I’m so pleased you like it. Maybe because we actually do know each other, I don’t finish a single write that I don’t consider whether or not you will like or respond to something of mine. I wasn’t sure you would like this as I thought it’s a world so unlike yours. I guess it’s more universal than I thought.

  9. what a wonderful journey i just went many wonderful lines and the sassy-bit of emotion by the narrator held me captive..
    this is really quite marvelous..

  10. really cool story, with vivid descriptions of the living that took place in the past. Told so well I think because you were able to write down the emotions as if you can feel each one physically today. Such a good story I was able to watch it all happen while sipping a cherry coke at the Rockaway Diner and in doing so, I completely lost track of time. So completely that decades passed me by and when I awoke, my cherry coke had been transformed into to a morning’s mocha from Morning Thunder, transported to a different time, even though I remained at the exact same booth,

    a later era of the same cafe 🙂

  11. Thank you everyone for kind words. The irony is after being out today I came home to find I’d left my coffee pot on and it had burned out. No coffee tomorrow morning.

  12. Holly, first timer here. Oh crap, you burned out your coffee pot? No coffee tomorrow AM? Wish I could time-travel you here to Wisconsin and make you a pot. Anyway, glad you intro’d yourself on my blog.

    This is indeed a Texas tale – my hub was in Austin and San Antone for years and regales me with talk of ice houses and such. Your trip down that lane was bittersweet and honest and lovely. I, too, have a guy friend with whom I’ve share many adventures… and a husband who is fascinated by all my whiz-bang adventurous days! So great to have an outlet to let these memories run wild in the middle of Main Street, coffee in on hand and a whim in the other… Thanks! Amy

  13. it’s as though you picked my Big Sister’s brain — we are Panhandle born and reared and she is 17 years older than i, so together we cover a lot of Plains…

    love this — thank you for sharing

  14. Life got a bit overwhelming and I haven’t been online for much lately. I not only missed this one, but a few others too. Thanks for leaving me the link. I’m all the better for catching up!

    This is my favorite poem of yours, thus far. I love your voice and the repetition, but mostly I love the words and emotion. This is a Norman Rockwell painting all grown up and put to words.

  15. Gay, I really loved this. It has the feel of a sestina (I don’t think it is one) but with the echo of words (coffee), experience, curls, love, disappointment. Really lovely.

  16. Personable and nostalgic… it is so nice to have a good friend of the opposite sex. Thanks for sharing the fond memories… they brought me back to those good ole days as well. I’m so sorry he has cancer.

  17. I loved it Gay. I knew exactly who it was about. 🙂 I wish my Mom could read it. Such a fun and flirty way to look back at the history you have together with just a hint of disdain.

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