Friday, May 21, 2010

Poetry Friday: My Uncle's Favorite Coffee Shop

I enjoy Naomi Shihab Nye's poetry. This one was new to me this week. It's the story of an uncle. I love it because it is about such a specific person, and yet, like so much of Nye's poetry, about being an immigrant. And then also, a little bit, about me, saying "I cannot tell you - " but then, trying anyway.

My Uncle’s Favorite Coffee Shop

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Serum of steam rising from the cup,
what comfort to be known personally by Barbara,
her perfect pouring hand and starched ascot,
known as the two easy eggs and the single pancake,
without saying.
What pleasure for an immigrant—
anything without saying.

My uncle slid into his booth.
I cannot tell you—how I love this place.
He drained the water glass, noisily clinking his ice.
My uncle hailed from an iceless region.
He had definite ideas about water drinking.
I cannot tell you— all the time. But then he’d try.

My uncle wore a white shirt every day of his life.
He raised his hand against the roaring ocean
and the television full of lies.
He shook his head back and forth
from one country to the other
and his ticket grew longer.
Immigrants had double and nothing all at once.
Immigrants drove the taxis, sold the beer and Cokes.
When he found one note that rang true,
he sang it over and over inside.
Coffee, honey.
His eyes roamed the couples at other booths,
their loose banter and casual clothes.
But he never became them.

Here's the rest of it.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Anonymous said...

I loved it. Thank you for sharing it.

jama said...

What a great poem! Love Nye's work; this one was new to me. Thanks for sharing it.

laurasalas said...

Heartbreaking ending. Love this part, though:

He shook his head back and forth
from one country to the other
and his ticket grew longer.


Laura said...


This hits one of the core aspects of poetry. We write to break the silence.

I love the courage in this poem.

Laura Evans
all things poetry

Mary Lee said...

Yeah, that ending. Wow.

Maria said...

I really enjoy the poems you post, Ruth. If we ever get around to doing a poetry night this summer, I have a scad of poems to share from your website. :-)