In the hospital coffee shop the glass
doors open and close on the past,
open and close on the future and all
one wonders about in a hospital.
An immigrant willow nods outside.
People go in and out like a tide
smelling of coffee. It takes me back
along a winding mental track
to my first job, up before the sun,
drinking coffee (I felt like a man),
black coffee, driving through the dark
past the graveyard and the seaside park
to the combines, their work lights fading
in the blood-red sunlight of morning,
the fields crowded with feeding gulls,
the dawn aglow like pulsing coals
till the valley roared in the flames of day
and combines crawled. We were making hay.
The swale turned brown in the summer heat,
the color of coffee, the color of peat.
And the glass doors slide open again
and sigh closed like a shuttered lens
and I’m far off by the Turkish sea
reading the grounds, so sugary,
the future a muddy silhouette,
none of which has happened yet,
the eye a camera panning from
that upturned cup to the present room.
I’m watching the medical folk in scrubs
efficiently going about their jobs.
Some have attended at a death.
Some like me are here for a birth,
or rather an ultrasound. All is well
as far as our modern machines can tell,
the new life swimming in the dark
an immigrant ready to embark
at the time allotted—who knows how?
But this is today. This is now,
past, present and future to be
a new life, someone other than me
who will know from birth this island home,
loved in company, loved alone,
and wake to smell the coffee one day,
feeling so close what is far away.
Know, child, when you rise in the dark
and set off for some hopeful work,
alive like a song like a smell like a look
of a character staring back from a book
or across a busy coffee shop
over the lip of a steaming cup,
the doors are open. Now they close.
There is the garden, there the rose
and the willow, both immigrants,
like me, with their own peculiar scents,
like coffee. I can see at a glance
how you hold it, warm in your two hands.