Seattle’s Best Coffee
He bought a cup of coffee,
gulped most of it
replaced the amount he had drunk with milk,
then poured sugar into the cup—
way longer than any normal person would.
He was on crutches—one leg gone.
He headed for the exit,
but with the cup in his hand
he couldn’t open the heavy door.
I jumped up, held his coffee
and braced the door open with my back
until he got outside. Then
he asked if I would follow him
a little ways to a store front
where he stayed out of the rain.
He sat down, or more accurately collapsed,
with only a worn swatch of denim
and a miserable piece of flesh
between his bony pelvis
and life on the street in Seattle.
I mean, what else can we do?
No. He wasn’t crazy
he just had to tell non-stop
his story over and over to dissipate the pain
that hurt like a boil.
Out of a baggy jacket, cap with earlaps, and
face in the shadows, burst a strong voice—
I was beaten in Nam
I bit so hard on a bamboo cane
my teeth broke.
He turned his head and gnashed at the steel pole
of the bus to demonstrate, pulled down his lower lip
to show me where he had bitten through.
I saw my buddy skinned alive
and wondered why the man didn’t pass out.
Only mean people like war.
I don’t trust them anymore
don't trust them anymore.
He took off his knit glove and reached
across the aisle to shake my hand
before I got off. Now I could see his eyes
in the gray light of the bus.
What’s your name? Mine is Walter,
a Baby Boomer.
He smiled a man’s smile—still not broken.
And you are a Depression baby, right?
Yes, I answered. I am, yes, I am.
No, he wasn’t crazy, not crazy at all
the world is.
—Len Tews, Oshkosh, WI