“Five Seconds in a Starbucks Tips the Scales to Life” by Bob Rich

“Five Seconds in a Starbucks Tips the Scales to Life” by Bob Rich.


“The surface of the dark coffee in the cup swirls so gracefully, clockwise,

a rich, fragrant, spiralling star-illumined galaxy,

smooth and glossy and pirouetting

like a slow-motion view of the fluttering spinning edge of a flamenco dancer’s dress

(man, imagine if the dress was black, green, yellow, and red! oh, I haven’t gone dancing in ages),

like a merry-go-round for kids, as seen from above! …

like the smooth surface of an ice-skating rink,

where a little girl and a little boy carefully hold hands as they skate in that big chilly place,

the girl’s face and the boy’s face carefully designed so long ago, even before time began! …

by the portrait artist way up there, beyond the sky,

the artist who made coffee aroma,

who made this cup’s molecules! …

which, if seen through a microscope, would be — ha! —

leaping up, sending out sparks, gyroscoping …

at speeds beyond all human comprehension!

I was a small boy, years ago.

Everything was so big back then, big and wonderful. Not empty. No, really wonderful,”

thought the nearly-cynical astrophysicist, struggling unsuccessfully to smile,

taking his freshly-poured steaming drink from the Starbucks counter,

while, next to him, a woman doctor he’d never met, rushing out the door,

who had been charmed as she watched him stare into his coffee like a fascinated kid,

glances back toward the frowning scientist and smiles warmly at him,

as if they were long-separated friends now re-united,

before she vanishes out the door in the hurried yellow and green blur of her dress and blouse,

successfully pushing him a small but vital distance

over a thin emotional line so that, later that evening,

he wouldn’t be biting into his hand while thinking of recent disappointments,

so that instead he would be filled with a warm surge of gratitude in his gut that felt like honey on fire,

causing him to reminisce within himself over times when he laughed so hard he could hardly breathe,

moving him to share some laughs in a phone call to his despairing cousin

who, 20 seconds before the call,

was staring bitterly into an empty glass of cold soda he had just finished,

where the ice cubes were lazily twirling clockwise,

” … like the pointlessly spinning wheels of my life,” he thought silently.

“I can’t take another word. Another lecture. Another night,”

thought the cousin from his solitary stool in the chill of the quiet empty bar,

wiping his purple swollen eyes

as the last strains of Billie Holiday’s vocals from “Body and Soul” could be heard from the jukebox,

and, using his angry caloused hand,

he crushed the soft yellow freshly-picked flower on his suit lapel,

smearing his despairing hand with bright two-inch streaks of yellow pollen

mixed with red anger and small fragments of green leaves falling from his palm

while he promised himself to give up unless he got some sign in the next minute.

* * *

On June 28, 2011,  I published a sequel to this poem titled

“The Alchemist’s Birthday Cake (or: One Second in a Restaurant Tips the Scales to Life)”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *