Poem of the Week: “The Coffee Aisle,” by Graham Barnhart

Beans (1)

“I chose this poem because I believe in the healing, transporting power of a cup of coffee,” said Center for Poetry intern Grace Carras. “Graham Barnhart writes often about his experience as a medic in the US Army. I thought that this was a touching poem that raises an interesting question; what flavors do we use to mask the old tastes in our mouth? What flavor could be strong enough to ground us in the ordinary present, when our minds keep slipping back to memories of trauma or conflict? (To answer, if that flavor isn’t coffee, then I don’t know what it could be.) I really enjoyed this poem, as I enjoy all of Barnhart’s poetry. Let’s face it; with all this ice and snow, the thought of a hot cup of coffee feels healing.”


The Coffee Aisle

by Graham Barnhart


You step back always to boiling

black froth in a tin cup

to the density of flak curtains

heavier at least than the wind


stirred up by whatever

is outside exploding,

whenever you arrive

among these stone-ground beans


labeled Colombian Supremo

Jamaican Blue Mountain

robust with floral notes and balanced

blends of pleasant acidity.


After disheveling homes

with tracks of finger-size holes

left open to let a little sunlight in,

or kneeling through blood rinsed


truck-bed surgeries

while ceramic armor plates

clamped your legs to sleep

your fingers in torn rubber gloves

in someone’s torn leg—


anything that didn’t taste

like dust was saffron or jasmine

under the tongue—even dirt

sometimes, even blood.


But now which of these

mild to moderate sharpnesses

counterfeit best that flavor

when tamped into a cannon-mouth


French press here at home

in your un-demolished kitchen?



Source: https://tinderboxpoetry.com/the-coffee-aisle

Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: cpoetry@msu.edu (517) 884-1932 http://www.poetry.rcah.msu.edu

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