Poetry Issue 20


Franz Joel Libo-on

Early morning coffee shop poem

Always take the soft seat when you are staying
longer than 30 minutes. Never bring out a highlighter,
or a book holder, and if you can’t bear the fact
that you are indeed doing it, don’t read
the newspaper. When its night, go next to the window;
on days, straight to the corner, but neither too close
to the washroom nor the counter. Always burst into song
20 minutes after your previous one, but never after
the next table, except when they play Autumn Sweater
(because you know the song) but never sing along
to the first verse (ever.), but hum along.

It’s morning, and you don’t know what the day means yet.
The guy behind you is from Serbia
who knows Chinese, and he’s waiting for his wife
to come pick him up after she didn’t make him breakfast.
The guard probably knows this too.
He will wink as he walks by in front of you
—always after 15 minutes—
only to adjust the air-conditioner.
Don’t forget to look at your cup when this happens.
If you haven’t looked out from the window
after 20 minutes then look.
This place brings out the best in everything.

The bridge of the first to the second
syllable of your name will be said with a “w”,
while the last letter of your name will be the sound of a lake
after a stone has been thrown in it,
approximately 5 minutes ago.
You’ll wish voices could be girlfriends,
but you’ll save that thought for tonight.
The road outside will be photo-ready in yellow-orange.
While inside, you will notice people taking off their cardigans
(which includes those you thought didn’t have a cardigan).
Faces will start to itch. Fog on eyeglasses
will be wiped after the sports section.
Scattered powders of brown will be left
in the bottom of your cup, and something

will hit you that what you probably said earlier
was missing a few nods to accompany it,
a few kind words maybe, perhaps a bit
of a smile without showing the teeth
but sounding a sigh, some tapping in the table
by the fingers, and probably less fixing of hair.

And you know that you’re going to find yourself
in the future, in a poem or not,
seated in the same corner,
looking out from the same window,
probably stirring your cup,
but now you’re not checking the swirls it made,
which you could have only forgotten,
but swore that time you didn’t.