It was coffee in the kitchens of then.
Aluminum pot on the stove,
electric for special occasions.
A burping that underwrote mealtimes,
grit at the bottom of the cup, a morsel
to chew on while waiting for pie.
That rite of passage, a bitter sip
to fill the cup in truckstops,
its surface feathered with white
while the cream travelled down,
then mushroomed from the depths.
Or breakfasting in coffee shops
the dull lip of cup, white
with a green line, a snug fit
to its saucer, the square of napkin
soaking the drips between.
Coffee came in cans then, and
gasped when the opener
bit the edge.
Its black crumbs bore
no relation to anything living
and clung with winter passion
to the sides of spoons, counter, pot.
It was something elemental, we supposed,
like sugar or flour, mined
from some foreign hill. Beans
were hard black candies
pictured on its packaging,
beautiful as chocolate,
shiny as coal.
Rhona McAdam's fifth and most recent poetry collection is Cartography (Oolichan, 2006). She spent 2007 in northern Italy, earning a Master's in Food Culture and Communication at Slow Food's University of Gastronomic Sciences. These poems are from her latest manuscript, The Earth's Kitchen. She currently lives in Victoria, is the author of the food and poetry blog Iambic Café, and is on the board of the Slow Food Vancouver Island & Gulf Islands convivium.