The coffee-house looks like a photograph,
Pre-digital, a faded more-than-real.
Espresso and two cigarettes: a meal.*
Reflected in the window, I’m a half-
Step out of synch with moving in the flesh.
Barista croaks “two lattes”, bobs his head,
His long beak hazed with steam, his eyes dark red.
The tip jar fills with cogs as well as cash.
She always comes at seven, orders chai,
And chats with him in hisses and in clicks,
A ratchet laugh and engine-cooling ticks.
The regulars all smile when she comes by,
Her skin dark bronze, her pockets full of tools.
He pours a steaming cup of tiny jewels.
* A joke about the long-vanished San Diego coffeehouse Java, whose menu offered a “Bohemian Breakfast” of black coffee and two unfiltered cigarettes.
(Writing exercise January 24, 2012: something with a mechanical bird in it, in honor of Shweta Narayan.)