Tuesday, February 12, 2013

"Arabic Coffee," by Naomi Shihab Nye




Arabic Coffee
It was never too strong for us:
make it blacker, Papa,
thick in the bottom,
tell again how the years will gather
in small white cups,
how luck lives in a spot of grounds.

Leaning over the stove, he let it
boil to the top, and down again.
Two times. No sugar in his pot.
And the place where men and women
break off from one another
was not present in that room.
The hundred disappointments,
fire swallowing olive-wood beads
at the warehouse, and the dreams
tucked like pocket handkerchiefs
into each day, took their places
on the table, near the half-empty
dish of corn. And none was
more important than the others,
and all were guests. When
he carried the tray into the room,
high and balanced in his hands,
it was an offering to all of them,
stay, be seated, follow the talk
wherever it goes. The coffee was
the center of the flower.
Like clothes on a line saying
you will live long enough to wear me,
a motion of faith. There is this,
and there is more.


 For the invocation to the muse assignment I decided I would read, “Arabic Coffee,” by Naomi Shihab Nye.  This poem originally caught my interest because of the story it told, and its ability to encapsulate not only a culture, but a personal identity within said culture through the simple act of drinking coffee in the morning.  Furthermore, it is the language, tone, and allusions the author uses which allow the poem to portray the significance of this ritual in a very short amount of time.  For example the lines which mention “the place where men and women break off from one another,” not being present in the morning whilst drinking coffee instantly gave me the image of an Arabic culture where the men and women do indeed reside in different rooms while eating and the women must wait to eat until all the men are finished.  Following this Shihab speaks of dreams as things to be, “tucked like pocket handkerchiefs,” which exhibits the author ability to see beyond the gender and societal restraints of her society.  These allusions and the very serene, hopeful tone the author takes, empowers the one time and practice of the day where everyone is equal and anything is possible. 

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