That and a Dime Will Get You a Cup of Coffee

by Sue Kay
Wild Poetry Forum
First Place, October 2011
Judged by Nathalie Handal

He taught me how to make a hat of newspaper,
but the funny pages I preferred bowed like Blondie
on the brim to Dagwood on the crown. My Hornblower
was admirable, rattled like the sails before the boom
comes across and they fill again with wind, my bi-corn stiff,
my posture proud beneath the pages of newsprint.

A trip to the corner drugstore for The New York Journal American
I ordered coffee with no sugar or cream, a forbidden treat —
played at the bitterness of adulthood, thinking I liked
its peculiar bite, the slap of a heavy Sunday edition
on the counter, the smell of words, the taste of scorched brew.

He flirted with the waitress, though I didn’t know
then what it meant. She had a tilt and drift like the wind
and came across before she filled our cups, and boomed
off sloughing a wisecrack, a tack I think that made her tail
twitch importantly as she returned to port. I remember
the quiet scent of tobacco on wool wet with snow, how the quest
for Sunday news taught me women liked my Dad.

I bought a five dollar sandwich from a street vendor along with last
Sunday’s newspaper and enough time to kill a good idea.
My hats have all turned brim-up into this late life wind.
The papers are all funny now, but without the Ben-Day dots,
the impress of the ink, the graphic blot,
Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte.

I can eat two dollars worth of the time it takes to make
a five dollar sandwich I don’t really want and read the papers
that consume a good idea without actually giving it a thought.
I find myself scavenging for paper, bending it to my needs—
a fragile sail on the sea, a hat for the admiralty.

This poem moves and moves us. A narrative song walking us through a vulnerable heart.

When a poem does that, it leaves us few words and endless sighs. ---Nathalie Handal