There is an historic and ancestral sense to the drinking of coffee and tea that binds the participant to a long line of coffee and tea drinkers over time. A beverage lineage if you will. Some from this clan sat writing in cafes along great rivers, others sat chatting in tea shops in Kathmandu, others sat around fires warming-up before they ran off to war. All had a connection to their cup of warmth that not only involved taste and aroma, but nostalgia and ambiance as well. Meaning given and taken from the drinking of a beverage has shaped peoples and places for a long, long time.
When I was in my 35th year, I began to feel connected to the soldiers of the Civil War. At first I was unsure of why it happened. Some of the connection came as I aged and began to see the true pain of a conflagration that pits one side of a country against another - the way pieces of us rail against other pieces of us in our insides. Yet, some of the connection came as I realized we shared the morning cup of coffee or tea together. We were in a fellowship of the cup, or a fellowship of the morning fires. You could see it in some of the cameo photos of the war and its surround. These photos drew you in.
I could somehow feel the humanness of these men as I realized we shared the ritual lineaments of collecting our thoughts over a steaming cup of coffee or tea. A gathering for warm and pondering. A tribe is born when we not only see the similarities of our souls, but feel them deeply conjoined at iconic touchpoints. This poem came from seeing those touchpoints. That coffee become a bridge to their souls.
A Sadness at the Disparity
There is a sadness
in the heart of man
that binds him to the
heart of every other man;
a sadness at the disparity
and emptiness we feel
when we think of all the
wars we have marched
ourselves off into.
It is a cello playing
slowly in the morning
sunlight; the rays creeping
between wisps of smoke
rising from the fires of
biscuits and coffee. The
hours will languish,
but the strains will wear on.
Claiming the protection of the
softer and gentler nature of our
humanity, we have told ourselves
this violence we allow in the
unbridled passion of killing for
belief is to be expected.
War is a consequence of our
of our duality and our compromise.
From here it looks like
tendons and muscles all
bloodied and torn. They
tell me we must do this
or all else will fail.
And yet, this hollow and
aching presence in my center
does not feel good.
But, it ties me to all other
men: at this time and through
all time. And, I am not sure how
to honor this - this aching and
horrific sense of my participation
in something dark and ill.
And yet, and yet again
as I see them come up
and over that small bluff
with their steel
shining and glinting
in the early morning light
of day, I know that
if I long to see my dear and
helpless child again - my
lovely and fair wife -
I must drag my mixed
emotion into that battle
and kill or be killed.
How have I allowed myself
to be carted off into a land of
woe and agony - a sea of despair
and contempt for another.
How have we endorsed this madness
throughout time. We have killed the
better angels of our nature and we
stand upon their bruised and bloodied
bodies, unaware that our boots
are slowly sinking into their loving
What have we done. Who writes this
madness into the hearts of mankind.
I do not fear the dying
as much as I fear what I have become.
And yet, there is no time.
I must rise and pack my powder;
I must run, into the stream of chaos,
with an empty belly and a heart
full of memories. I must only
take one swig for now.
I only pray I will
settle on some peaceful scene in my
heart - in my mind - if it is me
that lay a dyin' at the end of day.
I can still hear the cello staining
for a "c", straining to open my heart
as I hurry toward the glint
and shine of their steel coming over