Coffee and Toast on Hubbard Street, Civilization and Oliver’s Query

I live in the city now

and mostly that means

when I stoop to pick the paper up

off of the sidewalk

I can smell

coffee and toast

in someone else’s kitchen,

proof that neither the apocalypse

nor the Rapture happened

between last night

and this morning;

proof of houses still standing

and people still in them, proof of

electricity to run the toaster, of past bills paid to

Wisconsin Public Service;

it means this summer there were wheat fields

and people with donkeys picking their way

up and down the hills of Costa Rica, it means

there were sugar cane fields and workers

that took loaves out of ovens,

that they wrapped and

put them on trucks so that bleary-eyed drivers

sipping gas station coffee could take the bundles

to the Kwik Trips and Piggly Wiggly stores,

it means gas pipelines flowed and and

a bored cashier handed my neighbor change, saying

“have a good day” and he probably said

“you betcha, you too”;

it means your neighbor woke up today

and it means you did too,

catching the smallest tendril

of aroma of toasting bread that crept

along the alleys and over the mums,

that rose insistently to tell you not

about coffee or toast

but telling you that as of yesterday,

civilization stood,

and it reminds you of that open question that has been asked of you,

that Mary Oliver awaits your response –

your wild and precious life

standing by.


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