My father liked his coffee hot,
would send it back to the kitchen
with a flick of his hand
if steam didn’t rise from the surface
like a river where the jungle cats come down
to mark their territory and wait.
I was the boy who wanted to bolt,
or at least for all this silent tearing
to be over.
But a grown woman can’t run away–
all my mother could do
was purse her lips, steam silently,
try to make like everything was fine.
My father laughed, that confidential laugh,
practiced so long in coffee shops
where he’d try to close the deal,
and told the one he told and told again:
The boy didn’t speak his entire life.
When he turned twenty, he yelled, This coffee’s cold!
All these years, why haven’t you spoken? his father asked, amazed.
The boy replied, Up till now, everything’s been fine.
Me, I turned twenty and ran like hell.
Everything’s been fine ever since,
except, sometimes, the coffee’s too hot–
and I have no story to swap for the silence
as I wait here alone for everything to cool.
Alan Walowitz served as Coordinator of English in White Plains, NY Public Schools from 1992 till 2004. For the past 15 years, he’s taught at Manhattanville College in Westchester. Alan’s poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017 and 2018. He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, the online journal. His chapbook, Exactly Like Love, is from Osedax Press. His full-length book, The Story of the Milkman and other poems, is available from Truth Serum Press.