*To order Dark As A Hazel Eye: Coffee & Chocolate Poems from Amazon click on the link below:
Dark As A Hazel Eye: Coffee & Chocolate Poems
Published by Ragged Sky Press on January 15, 2016
Co-Editors Ellen Foos, Vasiliki Katsarou, and Lynne Shapiro were intrigued by the iconic status of chocolate and coffee that they decided to solicit poems about the two foods.
The result is the anthology Dark As A Hazel Eye: Coffee & Chocolate Poems, 51 poems by 51 poets from across the globe separated into six categories: Buzz, Craving, Bliss, Bitter, Ritual, and Afterlife.
Richard Gary Brautigan
J. Gerard Chalmers
Dorothea “Dottie” Grossman
Lois Marie Harrod,
Ishmael von Heidrick-Barnes
Carlos Hernandez Pena
MaryAnn L Miller
Carl “Papa” Palmer
Naomi Shihab Nye
Rosemary O’Neil Wright
The poets tell of their experience of eating chocolate and drinking coffee and how these two foods/drinks affected his/her life in numerous ways – spiritually, sexually, politically, and economically.
There is a legend that coffee was discovered in 300 AD by an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi. Kaldi noticed that his herd of goats was eating red and green coffee berries from a bush. Suddenly the goals became full of energy and ecstatic. Kaldi then tried the beans and noticed immediate alertness. He shared his discovery of the coffee beans with the village and the word spread.
Monks from the mountainous region of northern Ethiopia learned of the coffee berry and consumed it and found that it gave them the ability to pray and meditate longer. Soon the use of coffee berries was more than just for physical consumption but a spiritual necessity.
Muhammad in Paradise offering a fellow Muslim who just died a drink.
“Coffee Haiku” by Theresa Sellers
It seems fitting that the first poem we discuss in this piece is the “Coffee Haiku” since both the haiku and the coffee were so essential to the Buddhist monks back then and even today.
In the first stanza, coffee is the potion that gives the monks the power and the ability to prophecy.
Coffee, dark, and strong
Or Muddy land prophetic Or dressed like a monk.
The fourth stanza of the haiku reveals that the monks are living in a time of spiritual warfare – the battle of good versus evil.
Caution contents hot
I read on my coffee lid
And sipped sweet danger.
In the fifth and final stanza, the monk consumes the coffee and it is only then he is able to conquer and, finally, rest.
Like a lioness Dragging her kill, I drag my Coffee back to bed.
“Coffee Bliss” by Carol Buckley
In “Coffee Bliss” the weight of coffee is spiritually perfect enough for the Sufi monks to have its first taste, and it is through this first taste the monks obtain a higher spiritual state of being.
set down their cups and twirled
set down their cups and twirled
into mystic world. Digging
deeper with each turn,
“Enticed” by Elizabeth Danson
In “Enticed,” drinking coffee can be a way of experiencing spiritual ritual or eroticism/sexual intercourse.
The dark liquid pour, the harsh hit to the palate,
The way the contents of the cup initiate a pond-
Clear on top, deepening to sediment at the bottom,
And the decision about just how far down to go.
“What You Need” by Rosemary Wright
In “What you Need” coffee becomes a jolt of sexual attraction it the form of Sean Connery in Thunderball and Lena Horne in her hit song, “The Man I love.”
“Bitter-Sweet” by Carlos Hernandez-Pena
In “Bitter Sweet” the chocolate itself becomes the object of fantasy - a sexual human being clothed in chocolate, ripe for the eating, or the copulating:
Today I caught a glimpse
of your figure in black attire-
blood surged out of rhythm
I mumbled and drowned words
This stolen image of you
you still exist
inside the sixth day
of the lunar fortnight
a dark chocolate fantasy.
“A Tasting Game” by Maxine Susman
Spiritual and sexual become combined in the “A Tasting Game”, which conveys a family gathering, or lovers, playing a game of tasting the same chocolate, as if in communion. The chocolates consumed are described as “assorted miracles” in a white box.
If you go first, choose one. Memory
will lead you, or impulse or careful deliberation,
or just close your eyes and lift one out
and nibble on its edge. A tiny bite, merely
enough to taste its flavor on your tongue.
Do you remember this, or is it new?
Just like in communion, as in sexual activity, each person present is given the opportunity to partake
truffles teach you concentration. Foreplay.
That you and someone else can want the same thing,
but rarely want it equally. That many flavors beckon.
However in the last stanza both sexual experience and even religious experience does not gratify – and the poem ends in a fantasy – something that can never come into being.
if you forfeit one, another tastes delicious too.
That triumphs and concessions stay sweet when small.
How to make something last that isn’t meant to last.
“A Cup of Joe” by Chris Bullard
Social justice or lack thereof is presented in the heart wrenching “A Cup Of Joe” about a veteran who orders a regular cup of coffee only to get a “plain” cup of coffee” which causes him to debate with the manager about what regular and plain mean. Amidst this conversation the speaker of the poem has a flashback or memory of how unimportant words are compared to people:
I remember all
those brown bodies we left lying beside the road rotting with their
sickly sweet odor. It’s only because I know that what we did was right
that I can’t put them from my mind. So, I smiled and pretended I was
listening. After they let me out, I went home and brewed myself
some coffee. I poured it into my Airborne mug and watched the steam
rising from the liquid that was as black as the nights back in the
Middle East. It was so black I almost expected to see the stars in it.
“I Thought No One Would Care” by J. Gerard Chalmers
There are so many interpretations that could be inferred in “I Thought No One Would Care.” It could be about a girl being a victim of genocidal rape; poverty; neglect; boredom; religious hypocrisy; anything I have not mentioned; or all of the above.
We can assume the little girl is Jewish since she mentions her Hanukkah doll. We know she fears the mice, but who are the mice? Are they literally small animals she fears will nibble her chocolate away? Or are they symbolic of something more sinister?
Does this little girl want to become invisible so she can eat her forbidden piece of chocolate? Or is she trying to create a fantasy world so she won’t have to face her reality?
I thought no one would care
if I became a girl so thin I
could hide in the silence
of the vestibule
be invisible, while they
cut tender meat. Buttered fresh bread.
“Espresso” by Tomas Transtromer
The last two lines of the last poem in the collection “Espresso” tell the reader two things that coffee enables us to do – to never give up, and have the courage to face reality, something we need to adhere to during these dark days.
That give us a healthy push! Go!
The courage to open our eyes
The courage to open our eyes
***Painting "Portrait of a Girl" b y Nikolai Efimovich Rachkov in 1869