“What kind of coffee do you like?” he asked me
and I had to ask him what he meant
because my heart is flighty
and loves Brazil and Costa Rica with an equal love
and espresso and pour-over,
caffé breve, americano,
with a fervor that waxes and wanes
with the rains,
but “no,” he said, “I don’t know:
latté? mocha? americano?
What’s the difference anyway?”
So it fell to me then
to complete an education
sorely lacking in the caffeinated arts.
An Americano, I began, is what you make
when it is 8:55 and class is at 9:00,
and there is a test for which you have not studied
looming like a dark figure down the road
probably harmless but you never know
and though in your body and soul
you have just celebrated the Holy Sacrifice
in your mind it is still the feast of the Dormition
and what you really
is a lungo shot and a cup full of boiling water
to scatter the fog.
A latté, I explain, is a suitable drink
for the later hours of the morning,
a drink for daylight hours, after-class hours
round about Tierce,
a sitting and laughing with your brother drink,
a celebrating Marian feast days drink,
a “What do you want? Never mind—like I have to ask!” at the cofeeshop drink,
an unnecessary drink, like poetry is unnecessary.
A drink to linger over.
An immaculate choice on the day of Our Lady of Lourdes.
And a mocha, I beseech the barista
with the metal T-shirt and lip ring:
no, make it two.
Because a mocha is a drink to make friends over,
a sweet drink to share bitter memories over,
a hot drink for a cold afternoon—
for espresso is laced in the chocolate just as grace is.
A mocha is love, and like love
it opens our eyes:
a mocha is providence,
an unexpected turn that is the only way
things could have gone.
This is day 2 of Labia Munda, a series of forty poems during the forty days of Lent.