In the Coffee Shop

by Carl Dennis

The big smile the waitress gives you
May be a true expression of her opinion
Or may be her way to atone for glowering
A moment ago at a customer who slurped his coffee
Just the way her cynical second husband slurped his.

Think of the meager tip you left the taxi driver
After the trip from the airport, how it didn't express
Your judgment about his service but about the snow
That left you feeling the earth a tundra
Only the frugal few could hope to cross.

Maybe it's best to look for fairness
Not in any particular unbiased judgment
But in a history of mistakes that balance out,
To find an equivalent for the pooling of tips
Practiced by the staff of the coffee shop,
Adding them up and dividing, the same to each.

As for the chilly fish eye the busboy gave you
When told to clear the window table you wanted,
It may have been less a comment on you
Than on his parents, their dismissing the many favors
He does for them as skimpy installments
On a debt too massive to be paid off.

And what about favors you haven't earned?
The blonde who's passing the window now
Without so much as a glance in your direction
Might be trying to focus her mind on her performance
So you, or someone like you, will be pleased to watch
As she crosses the square in her leather snow boots
And tunic of red velvet, fur-trimmed.

What have you done for her that she should turn
The stones of the public buildings
Into a backdrop, a crosswalk into a stage floor,
A table in a no-frills coffee shop
Into a private box near the orchestra?

Yesterday she may have murmured against the fate
That keeps her stuck in the provinces.
But today she atones with her wish to please
As she dispenses with footlights and spotlights,
With a curtain call at the end, with encores.
No way to thank her but with attention
Now as she nears the steps of the courthouse
And begins her unhurried exit into the crowd.

please note: photo by fallsguyd


  1. excellent and free flowing language. todd

  2. I really love this poem. What a unique impression of youthful beauty on the move.

    word verification: disca ..... life is a dance

  3. That's really interesting. Makes me think about our daily interactions. Where DO you find these? And thank you for doing so.

  4. Hmmmm, taking daily interactions for granted.

  5. You have spoken the truth with elegance.

  6. All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players...

  7. All the worlds a stage and each must play his part. This is the thought that came to me about half way through reading this piece. I love the picture of the Diner. I have't seen one like that since I was a young girl. I enjoyed both your poem and the pic, well done!

  8. Loved this poem, liked the first better than the last bit, but really made me think about people and how we treat each other and how it is mostly never personal when someone is rude.

  9. Made me think, made me smile at the end of a loooong day. Thanks.

  10. Thank you for sharing this little piece of beauty with me. I needed it while at a job filled with so little thanks.

  11. don't be sad that its over. be grateful that it happened.

    should i be sad that his relationship is over or be grateful that he is back? 
    sad that it is over.
    he may be back but he is not happy.
    there us nothing worse than a sad friend.

    why should i care about what she thinks? she believes devoutly and forms her life around mystical fables. what if we started to worship the tortoise from the tortoise and the hare? it would be just about as ridiculous as believing in god.

    the day before easter the dog nearly git her leg cut off. 
    things don't taste like what they look.

    its not having what you want, its wanting what you've got.

    it is odd imagining two separate parts of your life symultaneously

    i don't know what to write as my day has been so uneventful. the kitchen is being repainted the same colour that it already is.
    i went for a walk and nearly lost the dog. everyone else are always busy.

    i hate moving, changing environments. i never know what to do. i want to work tomorrow as i didn't today. but when you move into a non working environment, you seem to want to do everything that requires the least amount of effort.
    i watched a lot of tv today. i wont tomorrow. i need to unpack as well. i just cant handle the boredom.

    you know, he is as her.
    both lonely and both alone.

    she wants to be friends but she needs to get over him first. the faster she can get over him, the faster they can be friends, the faster they can get back together.

    when you speak without thinking, you say what you think.

    magic will sort it out in the end.

    wear your shoes every other day and they will last twice as long.

    then you speak the awful, cruel truth.
    i hate you.
    and they return
    i know, i hat you too, i love arguing with you.
    i hate arguing with you, you belittle me, irrationally contradict me, speak over me.

    i really hate you.
    i know. (you don't care or you don't understand)
    i hate you.

who do i talk to?
what do i say? 
will she remember... what.
she is in so much pain alone.
i will be there for her.
but can she accept that?
can she?

  12. I love's clever, witty and even charming! :)

  13. this will give me good thoughts before i head to bed. i am v glad to have found this blog :) dont stop blogging!

  14. Reminded me lots of a specific poem I came across the other week. If I remember it correctly it was a Frank O'Hara poem about the death of a famous actress, but the details are escaping me the more I try to pin them down....I guess i'm getting old.

    Anyway, good stuff. Im really glad I came across your blog, keep it up.
    Nick x


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