I had my first sip of coffee when I was nine years old, during the blizzard of ’78. I think I spit it out, and I didn’t touch it again until college. Back then, I would not have believed that Java and I would one day become friends, much less lovers. We’ve both grown up over the years; today, he’s as respectable a guy as I could hope for–mostly Central American, occasionally Ethiopian, always organic, shade-grown, dark-roasted, and fairly traded. Prepared in a French press and served in a reusable cup, he is pure guilt-free enjoyment. This sestina tells our life story:
The radio awakened us from sleep;
our school was closed—hooray! Who could forget
our state’s most famous blizzard hit that day?
Hot chocolate in exchange for shoveling help,
but Folgers was no substitute, mom learned.
Such bitter coffee faces did we make.
My college self would this decision make:
for vile brown brew, I’d never trade my sleep.
Strong coffee is a taste that must be learned.
Friends chugged and crammed all night, lest they forget
key answers, but for me, it proved no help.
A nervous wreck I’d be on testing day.
Opinions change, as did my own one day.
I needed to arise by dawn to make
it to my clinicals on time, God help
me! Burning midnight oil, forgoing sleep.
With cream and sugar, could forgive, forget.
Befriend and brew, essential skills to learn.
New nurses work the night shift, so I learned,
chain-drinking coffee ‘til the light of day.
Whoever poured the dregs must not forget
to brew still more, or enemies she’d make.
To quell temptation’s siren song, Sweet Sleep,
St. Java was our solace and our help.
A daytime office job my habit helped;
the lobby had a coffee bar, I learned.
Espressos, mochas, lattes clearing sleep
from sluggish eyes and brains at break of day.
Lush flavors, real whipped cream, a treat did make.
Tip well the fine barrista—don’t forget!
My old friend coffee shall not be forgot.
Retired, I wake refreshed without his help
but crave his company, therefore I make
French press with cream, and in its swirls I learn
of joy and pleasure in the everyday.
A steaming mug, a household fast asleep.
I’ll not forget, O coffee, what I’ve learned!
My foe-turned-friend, my help on countless days,
a date we’ll make each morn ‘til my long sleep.
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