“The End of His Reign at the Coffee House” by Noreen Hennessy

Circles beneath his eyes,
slanted lines, the color of ash,
Steam curling in the air, his head
soaking in a hot cascade of water,
A quick dash downstairs
a bowl of oatmeal made by his father
every morning, moving him toward
his destiny.

Down the road, the coffee house awaits him
dishes, bees swarming on
cinnamon buns, women in aprons
engaged in warfare over
paychecks, designations of disinfected
tables, whispers, tears,
jeers, scenes of occasional shouting.
as they dash out the door
to breathe in smoke
or to spit out a quick “I quit”
only to return the next day.

All this buzzes behind him, as he quietly
opens the door moves through the kitchen, knowing
the smoke, fury of these battles will
rise up against him by noon. His hands rough,
reddened by endless table wiping, his nerves shot
from the women’s constant prodding for
him “to step up” go faster, faster, faster.

Hours pass as
his bite of lunch is left wasted, forgotten
in his frenzy, their panic, and his head becomes light
with minuscule stars shimmering in his sight
under fierce, fluorescent beams.
Geese cackle, the sun cracks through the
front window pours over the counter, as bread is
ushered out of an oven to be eaten by the chosen ones–
royalty of genes and good luck from parts near and far:
Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, The Dorset Country Club…

They arrive here in Vermont in a flood of pink pants,
crowned with masks dangling from one ear, to condemn the harried
women who rush to serve them their paninis, who frantically wipe,
scribble out checks, grab chips, desserts, bagels as being
“too brusque.” And to command him, that their coffee be
served swirled with caramel, that they will soon swoon
over, coo to him, standing idly by a little too closely,
sighing “oh that’s love” as he pours golden
syrup into their bitter cups, making in the foam that
floats on top, the perfect image of a leaf as only he can,
for each one. And for a few seconds, he grows
taller as he stirs the cups then places them
gently on silver trays.

He can hear the blare of trumpets
at days end, as the last steaming brew is bestowed on a royal waiting,
feel a plumed hat settle on his 19 year old head, velvet britches arrive
on his thighs, watch his hands grow more graceful as a
lute begins to play.
The smudged darkness
beneath his eyes
for a moment, only to quickly reappear
as he locks the door
turns the sign to CLOSED,
feels the rush of his
young life passing him by,
the brush of feathers,
the crush of velvet,
falling to the floor
like him
who will pick himself up,
sweep the floor clean,
and call to give NOTICE

Noreen Hennessy is new to poetry. She has given readings of her writing at Beyond Baroque Literary Foundation and at the 92nd St Y. Recently, one of her poems has been published online by Literary North.  She has been studying poetry in community workshops this past year at UVM and Dartmouth College. She lives in southern Vermont with her husband and son.