My Uncle's Favorite Coffee Shop
By Naomi Shihab Nye
Serum of steam rising from the cup,
what comfort to be known personally by Barbara,
her perfect pouring hand and starched ascot,
known as the two easy eggs and the single pancake,
What pleasure for an immigrant —
anything without saying.
My uncle slid into his booth.
I cannot tell you — how I love this place.
He drained the water glass, noisily clinking his ice.
My uncle hailed from an iceless region.
He had definite ideas about water drinking.
I cannot tell you — all the time. But then he'd try.
My uncle wore a white shirt every day of his life.
He raised his hand against the roaring ocean
and the television full of lies.
He shook his head back and forth
from one country to the other
and his ticket grew longer.
Immigrants had double and nothing all at once.
Immigrants drove the taxis, sold the beer and Cokes.
When he found one note that rang true,
he sang it over and over inside.
His eyes roamed the couples at other booths,
their loose banter and casual clothes.
But he never became them.
Uncle who finally left in a bravado moment
after 23 years, to live in the old country forever,
to stay and never come back,
maybe it would be peaceful now,
maybe for one minute,
I cannot tell you — how my heart has settled at last.
But he followed us to the sidewalk
saying, Take care, Take care,
as if he could not stand to leave us.
I cannot tell—
how we felt
to learn that the week he arrived,
he died. Or how it is now,
driving his parched streets,
feeling the booth beneath us as we order,
oh, anything, because if we don't,
nothing will come.
We are expecting snow in the DC area on Friday, meaning that on Tuesday, people were already rushing out to the store to stock up on toilet paper, including us once we read the articles about how people were rushing out to the store to stock up on toilet paper. Our only other major activity was seeing The Good Dinosaur with son and his girlfriend, which is one of the most distressing children's movies I've ever seen; I recommend showing your kids Bambi if you want them to cry and refuse to go to bed for the several days, and only see The Good Dinosaur if your primary interest is in admiring the phenomenal animated landscapes, waterscapes, and skyscapes.
We did spend a few minutes with a government employee checking up on a relative about security clearance. I'm not allowed to talk specifics, but allow me to say that I snickered all afternoon when I discovered that the US government pays money to investigate why people were unemployed during the entire decade when they were under ten years old. In the evening we caught up on Downton Abbey, which was meh though I'm glad Mrs. Hughes is finally happy, and watched Limitless, which was too gruesome at the start but ended up being hilarious, especially the list of crimes ("recorded NFL game without permission"). Some photos from Beans in the Belfry last weekend: