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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.