Coffee - Poem by Richard Brautigan
Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee
affords. I once read something about coffee. The thing said that coffee is good for you;
it stimulates all the organs.
I thought at first this was a strange way to put it, and not altogether pleasant, but
as time goes by I have found out that it makes sense in its own limited way. I'll tell you
what I mean.
Yesterday morning I went over to see a girl. I like her. Whatever we had going for us
is gone now. She does not care for me. I blew it and wish I hadn't.
I rang the door bell and waited on the stairs. I could hear her moving around upstairs.
The way she moved I could tell that she was getting up. I had awakened her.
Then she came down the stairs. I could feel her approach in my stomach. Every step she
took stirred my feelings and lead indirectly to her opening the door. She saw me and it
did not please her.
Once upon a time it pleased her very much, last week. I wonder where it went,
pretending to be naive.
'I feel strange now,' she said. 'I don't want to talk.'
'I want a cup of coffee,' I said, because it was the last thing in the world
that I wanted. I said it in such a way that it sounded as if I were reading her a telegram
from somebody else, a person who really wanted a cup of coffee, who cared about nothing
'All right,' she said.
I followed her up the stairs. It was ridiculous. She had just put some clothes on. They
had not quite adjusted themselves to her body. I could tell you about her ****. We went
into the kitchen.
She took a jar of instant coffee off the shelf and put it on the table. She placed a
cup next to it, and a spoon. I looked at them. She put a pan full of water on the stove
and turned the gas on under it.
All this time she did not say a word. Her clothes adjusted themselves to her body. I
won't. She left the kitchen.
Then she went down the stairs and outside to see if she had any mail. I didn't remember
seeing any. She came back up the stairs and went into another room. She closed the door
after her. I looked at the pan full of water on the stove.
I knew that it would take a year before the water started to boil. It was now October
and there was too much water in the pan. That was the problem. I threw half of the water
into the sink.
The water would boil faster now. It would take only six months. The house was quiet.
I looked out the back porch. There were sacks of garbage there. I stared at the garbage
and tried to figure out what she had been eating lately by studying the containers and
peelings and stuff. I couldn't tell a thing.
It was now March. The water started to boil. I was pleased by this.
I looked at the table. There was the jar of instant coffee, the empty cup and the spoon
all laid out like a funeral service. These are the things that you need to make a cup of
When I left the house ten minutes later, the cup of coffee safely inside me like a
grave, I said, 'Thank you for the cup of coffee.'
'You're welcome,' she said. Her voice came from behind a closed door. Her
voice sounded like another telegram. It was really time for me to leave.
I spent the rest of the day not making coffee. It was a comfort. And evening came, I
had dinner in a restaurant and went to a bar. I had some drinks and talked to some people.
We were bar people and said bar things. None of them remembered, and the bar closed. It
was two o'clock in the morning. I had to go outside. It was foggy and cold in San
Francisco. I wondered about the fog and felt very human and exposed.
I decided to go visit another girl. We had not been friends for over a year. Once we
were very close. I wondered what she was thinking about now.
I went to her house. She didn't have a door bell. That was a small victory. One must
keep track of all the small victories. I do, anyway.
She answered the door. She was holding a robe in front of her. She didn't believe that
she was seeing me. 'What do you want? ' she said, believing now that she was
seeing me. I walked right into the house.
She turned and closed the door in such a way that I could see her profile. She had not
bothered to wrap the robe completely around herself. She was just holding the robe in
front of herself.
I could see an unbroken line of body running from her head to her feet. It looked kind
of strange. Perhaps because it was so late at night.
'What do you want? ' she said.
'I want a cup of coffee,' I said. What a funny thing to say, to say again for
a cup of coffee was not what I really wanted.
She looked at me and wheeled slightly on the profile. She was not pleased to see me.
Let the AMA tell us that time heals. I looked at the unbroken line of her body.
'Why don't you have a cup of coffee with me? ' I said. 'I feel like
talking to you. We haven't talked for a long time.'
She looked at me and wheeled slightly on the profile. I stared at the unbroken line of
her body. This was not good.
'It's too late,' she said. 'I have to get up in the morning. If you want
a cup of coffee, there's instant in the kitchen. I have to go to bed.'
The kitchen light was on. I looked down the hall into the kitchen. I didn't feel like
going into the kitchen and having another cup of coffee by myself. I didn't feel like
going to anybody else's house and asking them for a cup of coffee.
I realized that the day had been committed to a very strange pilgrimage, and I had not
planned it that way. At least the jar of instant coffee was not on the table, beside an
empty white cup and a spoon.
They say in the spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love. Perhaps if he has
enough time left over, his fancy can even make room for a cup of coffee.
-from Revenge of the Lawn
Comments about Coffee by Richard Brautigan
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