Sitting here on a stone bench after a lukewarm second date, watching the dog busy herself in a square of park, I think back to the sting of hot smoke in my lungs at a hookah bar in New York City some six months ago. A young man was singing along to the music while two girls listened to his side, and as I watched from across the table. The lights were purple, or so they seem when their flashing smiles reflected off the blue plumes exhaled from their cherry lips. What a pretty picture. They asked for a picture, the girls, and he told them they were a picture. They laughed, teeth white as ice in the room’s humid lilac and he snapped a drunken blur–from our two beers and rum and cokes–yet the women were radiant in the lens’ lazy capture. They sang along with him, throats bare and vibrating to the beat. But yet there I was, interrupting, not knowing the lyrics. But yet there I was, dumpy, unpolished, humany, sliding between him and the liquid women with hard muscles and harder curls. But yet there I was, unworthy, in the blue smoky world of the beautiful, hand on his chest, hoping to push the chirping nymphs from his mind, pulling the white champagne-flavored ash from his tongue, breathing in smoke and sweat and exhaling a most painful hope into the space behind his ears. The glittering ladies, disinterested, had dissolved into clouds, returning to their giggling conversations, leaving me with a demigod I didn’t deserve. The dog licks my ankles. Time to move on, she whines, to the next park, to our apartment in this city so much smaller than New York. I stand from the stone bench, the imprint of hard edges on my thighs, the weight of unsatisfactory carbonara sloshing in my stomach. That was six months ago, the divine boy, the pretty picture. There’ve been other men since then, over other drinks, or in mediocre Italian restaurants over forced conversation. Men as human as myself. Ah well, might as well head home, send a half-hearted “I had a great time,” then light a cigarette. My fingers crave a slow burning.
Sing, Muses, of the lust of Aphrodite,
who lives in the the swirling of milk in coffee,
who makes the world spin in sips of conversation
in muffled cafes, where things begin.
Sing, Muses for The Girl who caused the Trojan War,
who was fucking things up far before Menelaus
ever realized his wife was a cheating whore,
who made the mistake of asking for more
sugar in her cappuccino.
Sing, Muses of that baby goddess
who stepped on other’s lives with freshly-formed feet,
who didn’t look down to see the bronze ring
of coffee left on the table when the cafe closed
and a stranger helped her with her coat.
Muses, sing for my mother, Helen,
who grinds coffee beans with her hands
in the home of a younger man, and
who doesn’t hate the other woman,
or my father, who takes his coffee black.
Muses, sing for me, the daughter
who gives away numbers without counting
who visits many coffee shops and drinks lattes
bought by others.
Muses, sing for all the girls
who have caffeine addictions,
who leave wet rings on wooden tables.
Sing for the women with coffee stains on their togas.