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At the Coffeeshop

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PLEASE read this on efiction -- the formatting doesn't work out here. It's not essential, per se, but important.


Let me know what you think. :)








Ah, Alfredo—

I saw you at the counter

between the interminable seasons

of hungriness, while just outside

the storm had begun to putter,

and I stood to hail you, but

said nothing (or perhaps I dropped

my coffee, and was muttering to that)

and you turned and you weren't you after all.

Wouldn't it have been embarrassing

if I had hailed the person-not-you?

But if I did, perhaps the person would have become you.

If I could have said the four secret words

that would have brought you.



Do you not recall how we, at school,

learned names in the C minor of secrets

just as we'd secrets in your bed, the cool

afternoons laid out on green coverlets?

I dreamed that I had become a peacock

tailing a wide wall of feathers

of purple-green feathers

and learning the peacock's strut and stalk


when my cry flew out the window and door

because I was too short for these rooms

and too long for these rooms, and the more

I cried, the less I belonged in these rooms.

I have forgotten those four secret words.

O words, noisy noose of the self

and no more use to myself

than the colorless notes of dying birds.



The boy runs up, and all

his blood burns with the call

of being alive, being a boy;

yet he is not joy.


The boy turns round, his

heart hooked to his eyes

and flesh, secretly again;

yet he has no sin.


The boy falls dead, grass

green and purple-veined pass

through an empty fence;

yet he lacks silence.


The boy was the man.

The grass was the din

of flesh in air's rushes;

no word stands for this.



On underground trains, he hears the sound

of wild mimosas that touch, touch the dead.

He shuts his eyes to keep the silence in

because outside brings the hush of wings.


Those mimosas, having touched the dead,

produce in his mind the hushed green sound

too much like the wild dark, those dreadful wings.

He shuts his eyes to keep the silence in.


Softly, softly;

do not move the leaves;

do not make me fly.



If you saw me Alfredo,

you would be surprised at how like a ghost

I have been I have become.

But I am here discipled to this loss,

this pale flit this flutter,

voiceless inanimate ether

to not give that cry to never risk

thought beaten stretched to flesh,

in the clear intolerable mesh

of a ghastly cry a greenish feather.


But if I saw you, would I recall

those four secret words at last?

Alfredo, Alfredo, you cannot know

how stretch those interminable hours

of hunger that are like hands, hands

that link, but cannot warm each other.

Somewhere, in darkness shut further

from your soul than even the green

and purple-green cry dreamed, imagined,

are four million secret words that gather,

harden, obsidian themselves sharper, blacker,

until they seek reality through my throat, my skin.

Edited by corvus
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  • 2 weeks later...

I just reread this and was going to say a lot of inadequate things about it; how the image of those four secret words is really haunting and how I think the second stanza of part 2 is amazing, and how I think this poem is wonderful and scary at the same time, and that the build-up, just as you think it can't get any more intense, takes it even further -- but really I would just like to tell people to read it, because it's one of the best poems I've read this year (and I've actually read quite many ;) ) and even though it's long, it's worth the time and effort it always takes to read and take in a poem.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The style and structure of the poem are very unique and fascinating. I also found the imagery to be quite powerful and effective.


My only criticism is that I found the piece to be a bit opaque. On the other hand, when I got to the section about the mimosas in part 4 my mind completely wandered off and began pondering my favourite Sunday brunch beverage. So perhaps the opacity was the fault of my own distractibility and not a failing of the poem itself.


Anyway great piece :great:



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