my friend pounded the shoulders of everyone—friends
to outsiders—while mangling his booted steps
in a kind of dance up and down the aisles,
a coffee cup always his way to travel, laughing
at his fortune for avoiding collisions with waitresses,
who’d juggle maybe three cups of coffee
and a canter of orange juice with four plates.
But a morning came when he never left our booth,
and a day later he retreated to one in the back
with a torn leather seat. I had to finagle
my own head to see his head lost among hyacinths
hanging over a planter, where he now sat
and gazed out the glass at the trees
across Mercedes Street.
In his first days at his new booth, my cup of Joe
also traveled—back to his booth:
“Oh, everything is fine; everything is peachy,” he’d scowl.
“I can tell that something is wrong,” I’d insist.
But then he called me a know-it-all, so after that
I left him alone; he had grown straight forward
as a fence. I longed to hear from him
the old soft lies, like he hadn’t paid taxes for years,
as he’d kick back and laugh, and I’d laugh too
that, ideally, someone would turn his ass in.
But with him sitting back there alone,
I missed his patched, no longer colorful
life, where suitcases tangled in the doors to trains,
and music found its way onto the menu, lifting
his order nearly into song.
From then on, if anyone had looked,
as I’d pass his booth on my way to the restroom,
they’d have seen me flinching when I’d
hear his rattle from a sugar packet
he’d grip hard between finger and thumb, shaking it
by one corner, then tearing it open
and staring up at me with snake eyes
without once looking down
while he poured it into his coffee.