Dedicated to the Hulmeville Inn, Hulmeville, PA
I have come to this peaceful café
to rest my legs and drink from
the bottomless pot of coffee
the waitress has set before me.
I am jittery and can barely pour
the cream without creating a splash.
This is to be expected on a day like today,
a red white and blue day that
proclaims the coming of the holiday.
The waitress glides by.
A swan on a ripply pond.
She has people to serve
in the other room,
the dark room,
the room with the bar.
She stops by.
Does she want to talk?
I watch the smoothness
of her neck for a signal.
Her devotion is total,
like an abbess to her flock,
bound to her plates and soup bowls,
her pitchers of iced tea floating with lemon wheels.
Just the coffee, I tell her.
The cream goes in with a splash.
Against the wall, a legion of
tiny American flags
proclaim their clean, laundered loyalty –
to what? I am not sure –
bringing to mind
the music of Charles Ives
I have listened to in my bedroom long ago.
Where is he now, I wonder,
that daredevil cockatoo?
If only we had a stereo,
we could hear him play.
You’d know him anywhere,
his strut and clang of his marching band,
so unlike Sousa,
straying lavishly off course,
but full and sure,
stars and stripes, forever,
stepping into realms unheard of,
notes colliding with notes,
seas boundless and green,
Misted-over emeralds mined from zigzag depths
in colors yet unknown.
You’d like him, if you heard him,
But – careful! – he comes in fast –
Gone in a wink!