by Guillermo Corona
Faces in the crowd cast in shadow. Lone light shining upon an open mic. Nerves gathered, sweat glistening on anxious brow– we come together not to bury, but to praise this noble art. Tea-stained pages, rimmed with coffee mark the passage of time from home cook meals to library meeting rooms to a new wave– una nueva onda, a night of readings with friends and family y familias. We are grandmothers y abuelas, compadres and instant friends. ¿Si no hablamos ahora, who will? We are the voices of generations new and long since past, whispers and echoes both, cracking on an open mic. Somos amadores, we are coffee drinkers, dunking pan dulce in our cups while trading words and waxing poetic philosophies like it was going out of style.
Memory is a funny thing, ain’t it? I was sitting at my desk the other day when one just wiggled into the space between thoughts. It’s one of the last nights I hung around with the “coffee love guy.”
We both attended one of Amado’s Nueva Onda Poetry readings at the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library. He had recited – upon popular request – the poem in question, “Coffee Love.” I don’t know what it was about that poem that was a crowd pleaser, but those of us who knew the man knew him for that poem. It’s the only one that stuck in my memory, though I’m sure he read others.
“Whatever happened to that guy?” I wondered before pushing the thought aside, trying to focus on my work.
Memories, however, won’t be ignore.
The question hung in my head until I wrote down what would later be the title of this poem – “Whatever Happened to the Coffee Love Guy?” – into my bullet journal. I scribbled a few lines, trying to remember the conversation we had. Nothing stuck.
I tried writing a poem about loss – and I did – but I didn’t want to just focus on losing people. I wanted to remember someone, or rather the feelings I had two decades ago when I first took the stage at Amado’s little cafe and read for the first time.
And when I had those bare bones laid out, I started filling them in. Mixing in the words into English and Spanish – my broken Spanish. I flipped back to the page I wrote down my question and thought, “Now that’s a title I could use.”
I still haven’t answered my question, though. And maybe it will remain a mystery. I might bump into him one day, or maybe that last night was our last conversation. But if you’re reading this, man, how’s it been?